Alaska is a birders paradise. Hundreds of bird species migrate to Alaska every year to raise their young in the summer and feast on the abundant and rich diversity of plants and animals. Some of these birds include owls, cranes, shorebirds, songbirds, and swans. Some birds come as far as the other side of the world in Antarctica and return when the Alaska summer ends.
When hiking through the backcountry, one can be unaware of the beautiful diversity of birds in their surroundings. Certain characteristics such as the color and shape of their head, beak, wings, chest, and feet along with a bird’s song are like fingerprints that aid in identification. Bird lovers often use these characteristics to quickly identify them in the field.
One such birder is Ben Lagasse who came to Alaska for his third summer to study shorebirds as part of a long-term research project run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Summer of 2016 included surveys of breeding shorebirds on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, documenting breeding shorebird ecology in Barrow, and some post-work backpacking around the Atigun Pass and Galbraith Lake areas in the Brooks Range.
It was a pleasure to have hosted Ben at Base Camp Anchorage hostel while he prepared for the summers research outings. Many of his mornings were often spent sipping a cup of coffee while preparing light-level geolocator tags. These tags were then used to document the migration ecology and winter distribution of Dunlin (see above picture) throughout the circumpolar arctic.
We send a big appreciation to Ben and all the other passionate bird lovers out there who remind us of the rich diversity of birds around us and the important role they play in our environment. Here are a few birding moments Ben captured from this summer. For any ornithologists, birdwatchers, and nature lovers, an Alaskan summer has no shortage of opportunities for wildlife viewing as millions of birds flock north as part of their ancient annual migrations. See you next summer Ben!