A Beach Bum’s Virgin Voyage to Alaska’s Wilderness

Written by Shilo Felton, Ph.D.

July 18, 2018

When I was in college in San Diego, a professor stated during lecture that “the wild no longer exists as we think of it”. For the most part, he was right. What we think of as wild places are indeed heavily touched by humans. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—conservation of vulnerable plant and animal communities relies on the influence of natural resource managers. But I think a lot of us dedicated to conservation pursued this path, not just for the love of the animals, but to preserve wild places. It was more than a little disheartening to hear that this could be a myth.

Two weeks before I defended my Ph.D. Dissertation (many years later), Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Coordinator, Shiloh Schulte, invited me to take a break from the warmth of North Carolina to help with shorebird research in the Arctic. His text read, “I might have a job for you for a couple months, depending on how much you like the cold…Also, I should warn you about the mosquitos…” I am not a huge fan of cold (or mosquitos, but who is?). “I’m in!” I said. Tell him I hate cold and miss my chance to see shorebirds breeding in Alaska??? I don’t think so. Perhaps this was where the myth of real wilderness lived on.

1The Canning River delta and Brooks Range in mid-June, 2018. Photo by Shiloh Schulte

He wasn’t joking about the cold. I slept in two sleeping bags – one graded for -40°F and another for +15°F, and my toes were still cold. The first few days hiking out from bird camp, sloshing through snow and wet tundra marsh in my hip waders, my toes hurt from the wet cold surrounding my neoprene covered feet. I managed to get mild frostbite in places I didn’t realize one could suffer from frostbite. But I was finding Pectoral Sandpiper nests and searching for tagged Semipalmated Sandpipers. The cold was worth it.

On what started out as a clear, relatively warm day (i.e. just above 36°F), Schulte and I decided to make a trek up the Canning River in search of American Golden-Plovers. Only one pair had nested within our study area and it had already been depredated – likely by a jaeger. From his experience the year before, Schulte knew of another potential hotspot about six miles away. This was a break in the wet cold we had been experiencing, and the snow that had been hanging on four weeks past its due had finally melted away. We were going to use this opportune weather to leave the safety of camp and tag Golden-Plovers with GPS satellite backpacks. We carried bear spray and shotguns for safety and radios in case we wandered a little too far away from one another (we wouldn’t be able to contact camp from the distance we were going). Schulte packed up two lunches for each of us – we were planning for a long day.

It was an easy morning to cross the river – about knee-deep and the current mild. As we passed over a shallow river island, I flushed a nesting King Eider female – six eggs. We marked it and kept moving across the river. On the opposite bank, we checked on a few Ruddy Turnstone nests that we had discovered on the river beach the week before. Schulte pointed back toward the river at a small peep that landed on the shoreline. “Look!” he said. “A White-rumped Sandpiper!” I was lucky I was walking with someone who could distinguish this bird from Semipalmated Sandpipers by its white eyebrow and thick white patch on its rump.

2White-rumped Sandpiper in breeding plumage. Photo by Shiloh Schulte

We eventually made our way to higher, dryer ground. We separated from each other by about 50 meters, walking in zigzag patterns to maximize our chances of flushing any shorebirds sitting tight to their nests. This was less important for our target species Golden-Plovers, however, as the parents would alert us of their presence from 20 meters away, with their slow melancholy piping.

Schulte and I were not walking together, but we checked on each other frequently for safety and communication. At one point I looked over to see him marching slowly toward me holding a set of giant caribou antlers to his head – a bit of comedic relief made possible when he found two perfect antlers that a caribou had managed to shed simultaneously. I chuckled, shook my head at him, and kept hiking.

I stopped to scan the horizon – a grizzly bear slowly ambled North. He was a beautiful golden-colored male with a dark belly, and his small ears relative to his head gave away his very large size. He was far enough away that we were in no danger, but Schulte and I decided to walk together for the remainder of our trek. We carry deterrents, but the best way to prevent using it is to walk with other people.

This was a reminder to me of our remoteness. We carry protection for bears, but other dangers are more likely: a sprained ankle from hiking the uneven tundra lumps, a mild cut from the ice that won’t heal, hypothermia. In this wilderness, there is no one to call for immediate help. We rely on ourselves and the equipment we carry with us. It is incredibly heavy, but worth the effort. In an emergency, we could call for an airlift, but the weather must be amenable to landing a small bush plane or helicopter. This year, good weather days had been few and far between.

Schulte spotted an Arctic fox staring at us from its mound, and a couple small faces peeking out indicated that she had cubs. A Snowy Owl gave an alarm call from another tundra mound. As we reached our destination, where the Canning met the Steese River we noticed another Snowy Owl standing watchfully atop another mound. Then another and another. Altogether we counted nine Snowy Owls within a square kilometer. It was incredible to see so many individuals of a species I had never seen before coming to Alaska’s North Slope. They were angelic.

3A male Snowy Owl roosts on a river bluff. Lemmings and Snowy Owls were both super-abundant this year on the Canning River. Photo by Shiloh Schulte

While predators were abundant, Golden-Plovers were not. We found no plover nests as we marched around the high ground where they would normally choose to lay their eggs. Then, looking out over the braided river, we saw one – a Golden-Plover foraging along the sandy river islands. But then we saw another next to it, and another. Breeding plovers are territorial and wouldn’t have been tolerating each other this way, even to forage. It seemed that the plethora of Snowy Owls, while incredible for us, may have been hindering the plovers from nesting successfully, or nesting at all, along the Canning River. While we were reluctant to give up hope, we still had a six-mile hike ahead of us. Daylight is never a limiting factor in the middle of summer in the Arctic, but weather changes frequently on the North Slope and the temperature was beginning drop as the fog rolled in.

4American Golden-Plovers moved through in small flocks after the nesting season was over, but only a couple of pairs nested on our study area this year. Photo by Shiloh Schulte

Before we began our hike back to camp, I pulled the extra layers of clothing I had packed from my bag and systematically put them on: some ski mittens over my glove liners, a puffy jacket over my fleece, and a rain shell to deflect the wind as it picked up. As I had gotten in the habit of doing whenever the temp dropped below freezing, I pulled the back of my neck gator up over the back of my wool hat and the front of the gator over my cheeks and nose. This kept my ears, neck, and face completely covered, except for my eyes. For some reason my fellow campers found this getting odd. I’m not sure why I was the only one doing this. I guess everyone else was accustomed to colder climates (or didn’t want to suffocate in their own neck gators). Either way, it worked for me and made the cold temperatures tolerable. Schulte, who is used to winters in Maine and a veteran to Arctic field work, put on a thin fleece jacket. A person watching us would think we were preparing for completely different climates.

5Shilo Felton searches for elusive American Golden-Plovers in warmer weather. Good field gear is essential for success in the arctic environment. Photo by Shiloh Schulte

 As we walked back, Schulte and I sighted another bear, this time only a few hundred meters away. He was scampering – not a speed I had seen in a grizzly yet. Through our binoculars, we determined the reason he was running. An arctic fox, not much bigger than the bear’s foot, was nipping at the bear’s heels! She was clearly trying to keep him away from the kits we had seen earlier. The bear treated her as one might treat mosquitos – growling and swatting at her on occasion but mostly just trying to avoid getting bitten. Eventually, he moved away enough that the fox left him alone.

6An Arctic Fox harasses a Grizzly Bear in an attempt to drive it away from the fox’s den site – Photo by Shiloh Schulte

Closer to camp we encountered an unpleasant surprise. In the relative warmth of the morning (e.g. approaching 40°F), the snow had begun melting from the Brooks mountain range, raising the river to a level we did not recognize. Even the island where the eider nest had been was no longer visible. Camp was on the other side. We were wearing chest waders, but with the river raised it was difficult to find a crossing that was shallow enough for wading and calm enough to not knock us over. Having your chest waders fill with ice cold water is unpleasant (trust me), and we naturally wanted to avoid it.

7River channels on the Canning River floodplain can rise quickly without warning. Photo by Shilo Felton

Eventually, we decided on a crossing point. (Actually, Schulte decided. I was ready to set up camp and wait for the river to subside). We worked together to cross the river. I insisted on trying a strategy that I learned from a backpacking video. Schulte faced the current and I held on to his pack to help stabilize him. Schulte quickly realized I was mostly pushing him over (unintentionally, I promise). Instead, we tried his way and linked elbows, walking side-by-side and facing our destination on the far river bank. We made it safely to the other side without flooding our waders, though we were grateful the ice at the bottom of the river had mostly melted. I got stuck a couple times in the still-feet-deep snow bank on the other side of the river, but we soon made it back to camp to warm up with some delicious tuna mac another crew member had whipped up.

Following this trip, Schulte soon returned to the lower 48 to fulfill perhaps less exciting (though certainly no less important) obligations to shorebird conservation. While I envy his getting to take a shower and sleep above ground level, I am grateful to be in the Arctic as summer arrives (finally). We completed our goal of tagging five Pectoral Sandpipers and sent our American Golden-Plover tags to Barrow, where breeding pairs are plentiful this year.

8Shilo Felton releases a Pectoral Sandpiper outfitted with a satellite transmitter. We will be able to follow these birds during fall migration this year. Photo by Shiloh Schulte

I remain in the Canning River Bird Camp to assist the Fish and Wildlife Service in monitoring shorebird nest success, keep an eye out for any missed birds tagged the year before, and chase a Dunlin with a GPS backpack (no luck yet finding his nest, though I am convinced it exists). On a daily basis, I visit Semipalmated, Pectoral, and Stilt Sandpipers nests to find them in the middle of hatching. Tiny tundra-colored balls of fluff with long toes sit quietly in their nest cups. Dunlin peep as I approach, their chicks tiny wings outstretched as they stumble awkwardly over the tundra lumps toward the safety of their parents.

9 and 10Stilt Sandpiper nests are uncommon at the Canning River site. This nest beat the odds and hatched in early July. Photos by Shilo Felton

As I walk north from camp along the Canning River to check on a one-egg Buff-breasted Sandpiper nest, I notice that the wildflowers are in full bloom. They seem to me to be miniature versions of our flowers in the lower 48. Purple mountain saxifrage, fuscia-colored wooly lousewart, yellow Arctic poppy, and white mountain aven, none more than a few inches tall, are sprinkled around the tundra floor. The mosquitos are so abundant I can’t walk more than a few meters without inhaling one, but I don’t mind them much. They accompany warmth and humidity that remind me of spring in North Carolina and they are the main source of nutrition that draws shorebirds to migrate here to raise their chicks. I hear a chirp and look up to see an Arctic ground squirrel standing erect on a nearby mound. A rumble sounds from the west – a thunderstorm making its way along the coast. In front of it, just a mile or so away from me on the opposite side of the river, I see a herd of nearly 1,000 caribou making their way for the coast to escape the mosquitos. If we are lucky, the wolves will follow them.

Even as I am here, this experience doesn’t seem real. But I remind myself that it is, however wild. I think to myself, “Wild places live on, and I am in one”.

11Arctic Poppies and other wildflowers brighten the landscape during the brief Arctic summer. Photo by Shilo Felton

Supporting Shorebirds at Their Summer Home in the Southern Hemisphere

Monica Iglecia, Maina Handmaker, Rob Clay, and Brad Winn

**Scroll down for Spanish version/desplazarse hacia abajo para español**

The base of their long, slender bills appeared even pinker in the soft orange light of sunset. A sun that set so late we were often still searching for shorebirds at half past nine at night. In the coastal wetlands of Chiloé Island  Chile, we were sitting on a rocky beach at 41.9 degrees south, the latitude almost exactly inverse to Plymouth, Massachusetts. But while the shores of Cape Cod Bay were locked in ice, we were locked in wonder – watching in silence as a flock of Hudsonian Godwits gathered to roost for the night.

This group of godwits breeds during the Boreal summer in Alaska, more than 10,000 miles to the north. Chiloé Island is the nonbreeding destination for most of the Hudsonian Godwits wintering on the Pacific coast. The cove where we watched these birds is part of The Eastern Wetlands of Chiloé, a site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network that collectively protects almost 4,700 acres of crucial resting and feeding grounds for these epic travelers.

In January 2018, Manomet’s Habitat Management Division and WHSRN Executive Office staff traveled to Chile to teach two Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management Workshops, one in Santiago and the other on Chiloé Island. These first workshops of 2018 built on the successes of recent workshops in South America — in Bahía Samborombón and Bahía Blancain Argentina in 2017, and Lagoa do Peixe and Banco dos Cajuaisin Brazil in 2016. These workshops connect participants with a wide network of partners in shorebird conservation across the Americas, strengthening the local understanding of shorebird ecology, building conservation constituencies, and inspiring long-term efforts to implement beneficial management actions.

Santiago workshop participantsSantiago workshop participants in front of the University of Santo Tomas

The first workshop was in Chile’s capital city of Santiago. This workshop was hosted in collaboration with the University of Santo Tomas, and the Centro Bahía Lomas. The 23 participants represented 15 different organizations, including the Ministry of the Environment and a variety of non-profit organizations. Together, the group influences or directly manages more than 1,000 acres of shorebird habitat. Manomet staff led sessions on shorebird identification, migration strategies, tracking technologies, population monitoring, and good governance practices. Local guest speakers presented on a range of projects, from a national citizen science effort that produced the Atlas to the Shorebirds of Chile, to long-term monitoring projects such as Carmen Espoz’s Red Knot research at the Bahía Lomas WHSRN site in Tierra del Fuego. This site near Punta Arenas is the most critical wintering ground in South America for the endangered rufa subspecies of Red Knot.

“We were happy to have collaborated on this important initiative,” said Espoz after the workshop. “I am thankful for the opportunity the workshop gave me to present the progress we have made in the management of the WHSRN site at Bahía Lomas…I hope we can offer this workshop in November, in Punta Arenas!”

 the workshop was really“The workshop was really enriching. “Not only did it let me meet new people, but share experiences to be able to reproduce them in our own workplaces… We learned new tools to help the conservation of migratory shorebirds, but more importantly, tools to disseminate this information to the community – so that each of us, with our own grain of sand, can help protect these birds.” – ,” Santiago Participant Francisca Rojas, a biologist at the Coastal Marine Research Station – a research and teaching laboratory at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile that has an associated marine protected area. Photo: Maina Handmaker

Sebastian Herzog, Chile Country Officer for National Audubon Society’s International Alliances Program, spoke about the impacts of climate change on bird populations, recognizing that the Pacific Americas Shorebird Conservation Strategy characterizes climate change as a “Very High” threat to shorebirds in Chile. Participants identified the most pressing threats at their own sites, and divided into groups to develop strategies to address three widespread challenges: loose dogs, vehicle traffic on beaches, and pollution and contamination. The groups broke down these threats into specific objectives and concrete actions as they discussed information they needed to gather, partners and alliances they hoped to cultivate, and thought through tangible next steps to take. The energy and expertise exchanged during these group discussions was a highlight of the workshop.

The Santiago workshop ended with a morning at the Estuary of the Maipo River WHSRN site just south of one of Chile’s busiest ports. The group practiced identifying species and estimating flock sizes against a backdrop of industrial development, spotting Sanderlings, Black-necked Stilts, American Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrel, and three species of Calidris sandpipers including a Chilean rarity, the Least Sandpiper. The site was a perfect example of many of the threats discussed in the workshop, but also proved that a protected urban wetland can create an oasis for migratory shorebirds.

Santiago participants practiceSantiago participants practice flock estimation and species identification with Monica Iglecia at the WHSRN site Desembocadura y Estuario de Rio Maipo.

Chiloe Workshop participantsChiloé Workshop Participants at the WHSRN subsite Caulín

Crossing the Chacao ChannelCrossing the Chacao Channel from mainland Chile to Chiloé Island with views of Andean volcanoes. Photo: Monica Iglecia

The second workshop was held 700 miles south in Ancud, on the northern coast of Chiloé Island. Before ferrying across the Chacao Channel to the island, we visited the Wetlands of Maullín WHSRN site with Claudio Delgado, the director of our local partner organization Conservación Marina. A pod of Peale’s Dolphins breached just off shore as we watched a group of Baird’s Sandpipers blend perfectly into the beach. The tide climbed higher over the mudflats, and we watched hundreds of Whimbrel come in to roost as our small panga carried us back down the river.

In 2010, WHSRN, Manomet, and National Audubon helped launch the Migratory Shorebird Conservation Plan of Chiloé with a coalition of local, national, and international partners. Just a few months prior to this workshop, Diego Luna Quevedo delivered a Good Governance workshop to help further the goals of the Conservation Plan. The Chiloé workshop was another key part of implementing Phase Four of this Conservation plan, supported by the Packard Foundation and run by Manomet, Audubon, and local partners CECPAN and Conservación Marina

The 17 participants in the Chiloé workshop represented 11 different organizations. They were staff of local NGOs and provincial governments, municipal leaders, tourism authorities, biologists, and private landowners, together representing over 5,000 acres of shorebird habitat in the archipelago. Luis Espinoza, a professor who has been studying Hudsonian Godwits on Chiloé for more than three decades, revealed results of his recent research.  Espinoza presented maps of godwit satellite tracks – not only unveiling their migration routes and stopover sites between Chiloé and Alaska, but also their movements to find the most important foraging and roosting areas on the island. This data sharing motivated a workshop participant to explore the process of expanding the WHSRN site to include an additional important place identified by Espinoza’s research.

 We were delighted“We were delighted to participate in the workshop in Chiloé. It allowed us to learn, reinforce, and share ideas with those involved in shorebirds, conservation, and ordinance – themes we have been working on for years in Curaco de Vélez.” – Luis Espinoza, Participant and Presenter, Chiloé Workshop. Photo: Maina Handmaker

We were lucky to support several workshop participants at a shorebird festival after the workshop, in the town of Curaco de Vélez, one of the WHSRN subsites on the island of Quinchao. Claudio Delgado spoke about Conservación Marina’s efforts to protect habitat for shorebirds; Luis Espinoza led groups of all ages to watch shorebirds at the nearby WHSRN subsite, Chullec. Workshop participant Carolina Vidal, who works for the tourism department of Chiloé’s provincial government, spoke about the pride the community feels to be home to so many zarapitos (the Chilean common name for both Hudsonian Godwits and their curve-billed cousin, the Whimbrel) every austral summer. The celebration included musical performances, traditional crafts, and Chiloé’s famous seafood dish curanto.

In the immediate term“In the immediate term, part of the lessons [from the workshop] will be integrated into a manual of best aquaculture practices that we’re developing to help mitigate its negative effect on habitat for Hudsonian Godwit in Curaco de Vélez, and also to build capacity with businesses that develop coastal infrastructure that can affect shorebirds. It’s important that this type of workshop connects partners of the Network, and includes neighbors and friends of the sites, because it increases understanding and discussion about the possibility of collaborative actions.” – Claudio Delgado, Director, Conservación Marina, seen here birding at the WHSRN site Maullín with Manomet staff. Photo: Brad Winn.

Since the workshop ended, we have continued to work with participants to share information and guidance to help them reach their shorebird conservation goals. Sol Bustamante is in charge of the Lakes Region of Chile for the federal Ministry of the Environment. She wanted to showcase Chiloé’s shorebirds in educational initiatives, tourism materials, and in presentations to the provincial Wetlands Round Table, so we have shared photos of Hudsonian Godwits, Whimbrel, and resident species like the South American Snipe and Southern Lapwing for use in informational brochures. Maribel Díaz recently purchased a property on the shore of Pullao Bay, and recognized that thousands of shorebirds were roosting on the mudflats in front of her land. The Habitat Management team visited her after the workshop to discuss opportunities for managing her site for shorebirds. Adjacent to Maribel’s property is the main roosting site within Pullao Bay, an area recently purchased by Audubon that is owned and managed by our shared partner organization Centro de Estudio y Conservación del Patrimonio Natural. Around the cove from that property is Refugio Pullao, a six-room lodge working to connect guests with the marvel of migratory shorebirds – owned by Carlos Grimalt, another participant in the workshop. Pullao Bay is another one of the wetlands that makes up the WHSRN site on Chiloé. In our last days on the island, we watched with jaws-dropped as almost 10,000 Hudsonian Godwit gathered to roost on Pullao Bay at high tide.

The Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Habitat Management Workshops in Chile made strides to strengthen partnerships and cultivate new connections, vital to keeping areas like Pullao Bay, Maullín, and the Estuary of the Maipo River protected for shorebirds. Planning has already begun for future workshops in southern Chile!

 A Whimbrel works onA Whimbrel works on its dinner in the wetlands near Ancud, Chiloé. Photo: Maina Handmaker

A flock of HudsonianA flock of Hudsonian Godwits at the Quilo wetlands on Chiloé Island. Photo: Brad Winn

An inquisitive BairdsAn inquisitive Baird’s Sandpiper walks the shoreline near Ancud on Chiloé Island. Photo: Monica Iglecia

Check out additional photos from our Chiloe and Santiago workshops on Manomet’s Facebook!

Apoyando a las Aves Playeras en su Hogar de Verano en el Hemisferio Sur

Monica Iglecia, Maina Handmaker, Rob Clay, y Brad Winn

La base de sus largos y delgados picos parecía aún más rosada en la suave luz anaranjada del ocaso. Con un sol que se ponía tan tarde, a menudo seguíamos buscando aves playeras hasta las nueve y media de la noche. En los humedales costeros de la isla de Chiloé, Chile, estábamos sentados en una playa rocosa a 41.9 grados sur, la latitud casi exactamente inversa a Plymouth, Massachusetts. Pero mientras las orillas de la Bahía de Cape Cod estaban atrapadas por el hielo, nos quedamos maravillados mirando en silencio cómo una bandada de Zarapitos de pico recto (Limosa haemastica)  se reunía para dormir.

Este grupo de Zarapitos se reproduce durante el verano Boreal en Alaska, a más de 10,000 millas al norte. La isla de Chiloé es el destino no reproductivo de la mayoría de las hembras de Zarapitos de pico recto que pasan el invierno en la costa del Pacífico. La ensenada donde observamos estas aves es parte de los Humedales Orientales de Chiloé, un sitio de la Red de Reservas de Aves Playeras del Hemisferio Occidental que colectivamente protege casi 4,700 acres de áreas de descanso y alimentación cruciales para estos viajeros épicos.

En enero de 2018, la División de Gestión de Hábitat de Manomet y el personal de la Oficina Ejecutiva de la RHRAP viajaron a Chile para impartir dos Talleres de Ecología, Conservación y Manejo de Aves Playeras, uno en Santiago y el otro en la isla de Chiloé. Estos primeros talleres de 2018 se basaron en los éxitos de talleres recientes en América del Sur, en Bahía Samborombón y Bahía Blanca en Argentina en 2017, y Lagoa do Peixe y Banco dos Cajuais en Brasil en 2016. Estos talleres conectan a los participantes con una amplia red de socios en la conservación de las aves playeras en las Américas, fortaleciendo la comprensión local de la ecología de las aves playeras, creando grupos de conservación e inspirando esfuerzos a largo plazo para implementar acciones de manejo beneficiosas.

 Santiago workshop participantsParticipantes del taller de Santiago frente a la Universidad de Santo Tomás

El primer taller se realizó en la capital chilena, Santiago. Este taller fue organizado en colaboración con la Universidad de Santo Tomás y el Centro Bahía Lomas. Los 23 participantes representaban a 15 organizaciones diferentes, incluido el Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y una variedad de organizaciones sin fines de lucro. Juntos, influyen o manejan directamente más de 1,000 acres de hábitat de aves playeras. El personal de Manomet lideró sesiones sobre identificación de aves playeras, estrategias de migración, tecnologías de seguimiento, monitoreo poblacional y buenas prácticas de gobernanza. Presentadores locales invitados mostraron una serie de proyectos, desde un esfuerzo nacional de ciencia ciudadana que produjo el Atlas de las Aves Playeras de Chile, hasta proyectos de monitoreo a largo plazo, como la investigación de Playero ártico realizada por Carmen Espoz en el sitio RHRAP de Bahía Lomas en Tierra del Fuego. Este sitio cerca de Punta Arenas es el lugar de invernada más crítico en Suramérica para la subespecie rufa de Playero ártico que está en peligro de extinción.

“Nos complace haber colaborado en esta importante iniciativa”, dijo Espoz después del taller. “Estoy agradecida por la oportunidad que me brindó el taller de presentar el progreso que hemos logrado en la gestión del sitio de la RHRAP en Bahía Lomas … ¡Espero poder ofrecer este taller en noviembre, en Punta Arenas!”

the workshop was really“El taller fue realmente enriquecedor. “No solo me permitió conocer gente nueva, sino compartir experiencias para reproducirlas en nuestros lugares de trabajo … Aprendimos nuevas herramientas para ayudar a la conservación de aves playeras migratorias, pero lo más importante, herramientas para diseminar esta información a la comunidad: para que cada uno de nosotros, con nuestro propio grano de arena, pueda ayudar a proteger estas aves “. -,” Participante de Santiago, Francisca Rojas, bióloga en la Estación de Investigación Marina Costera – un laboratorio de investigación y enseñanza en la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile que tiene un área marina protegida asociada. Foto: Maina Handmaker

Sebastian Herzog, Oficial del Programa de Alianzas Internacionales de la Sociedad Nacional Audubon en Chile, habló sobre los impactos del cambio climático en las poblaciones de aves, reconociendo que la Estrategia de Conservación de Aves Playeras del Pacífico de América caracteriza el cambio climático como una amenaza “Muy Alta” para las aves playeras en Chile. Los participantes identificaron las amenazas más apremiantes en sus propios sitios, y se dividieron en grupos para desarrollar estrategias para abordar tres desafíos generalizados: perros sueltos, tráfico de vehículos en las playas, y polución y contaminación. Los grupos analizaron estas amenazas en objetivos específicos y acciones concretas mientras discutían la información que necesitaban reunir, los socios y las alianzas que esperaban cultivar, y pensaban en los próximos pasos tangibles a seguir. La energía y experiencia intercambiadas durante estas discusiones grupales fue un punto culminante del taller.

El taller de Santiago terminó con una mañana en el estuario del río Maipo en el sitio de la RHRAP justo al sur de uno de los puertos más concurridos de Chile. El grupo practicó la identificación de especies y la estimación de tamaños de bandadas en un contexto de desarrollo industrial, observando Playeros blancos, (Calidris alba), Perritos (Himantopus mexicanus), Pilpilén común (Haematopus palliatus), Playero vuelvepiedras (Arenaria interpres), Zarapitos comunes (Numenius phaeopus) y tres especies de playeros del género Calidris, incluida una rareza chilena, el Playero enano (Calidirs minutilla). El sitio fue un ejemplo perfecto de muchas de las amenazas discutidas en el taller, pero también demostró que un humedal urbano protegido puede crear un oasis para las aves playeras migratorias.

Santiago participants practiceLos participantes del taller de Santiago practican la estimación de bandadas y la identificación de especies con Monica Iglecia en el sitio de la RHRAP Desembocadura y Estuario de Río Maipo.

Chiloe Workshop participantsParticipantes del taller de Chiloé en el subsitio de la RHRAP Caulín

Crossing the Chacao ChannelCruzando el canal de Chacao desde el continente de Chile a la isla de Chiloé con vistas a los volcanes andinos. Foto: Monica Iglecia

El segundo taller se realizó a 700 millas al sur en Ancud, en la costa norte de la isla de Chiloé. Antes de cruzar el Canal de Chacao a la isla, visitamos el sitio RHRAP Humedales de Maullín con Claudio Delgado, el director de nuestra organización asociada local Conservación Marina. Una manada de delfines de Peale apareció justo en la orilla cuando vimos un grupo de Playeros de Baird mezclarse perfectamente en la playa. La marea subió por encima de los planos lodosos, y vimos cientos de Zarapitos comunes entrar a sus zonas de descanso mientras nuestra pequeña panga nos llevaba río abajo.

En 2010, la RHRAP, Manomet y National Audubon ayudaron a lanzar el Plan de Conservación de las Aves Playeras Migratorias de Chiloé con una coalición de socios locales, nacionales e internacionales. Apenas unos meses antes de este taller, Diego Luna Quevedo impartió un taller de Buena Gobernanza para ayudar a promover los objetivos del Plan de Conservación. El taller de Chiloé fue otra parte clave de la implementación de la Fase Cuatro de este plan de Conservación, respaldado por la Fundación Packard e implementado por Manomet, Audubon y los socios locales CECPAN y Conservación Marina.

Los 17 participantes en el taller de Chiloé representaron a 11 organizaciones diferentes. Eran personal de ONG locales y gobiernos provinciales, líderes municipales, autoridades de turismo, biólogos y propietarios  privados, que representaban más de 5,000 acres de hábitat de aves playeras en el archipiélago. Luis Espinoza, un profesor que ha estado estudiando Zarapitos de pico recto en Chiloé por más de tres décadas, reveló los resultados de su reciente investigación. Espinoza presentó mapas de rutas de Zarapitos de pico recto a partir de rutas de transmisores satelitales- no solo descubrió sus rutas de migración y sitios de escala entre Chiloé y Alaska, sino también sus movimientos para encontrar las áreas de alimentación y descanso más importantes de la isla. Este intercambio de datos motivó a un participante del taller a explorar el proceso de expansión del sitio de la RHRAP para incluir un lugar importante adicional identificado por la investigación de Espinoza.

 We were delighted“Estuvimos encantados de participar en el taller en Chiloé. Nos permitió aprender, reforzar y compartir ideas con los involucrados en aves playeras, conservación y ordenanzas, temas en los que hemos estado trabajando durante años en Curaco de Vélez “. – Luis Espinoza, Participante y Presentador, Taller Chiloé. Foto: Maina Handmaker

Tuvimos la suerte de apoyar a varios participantes del taller en un festival de aves playeras después del taller, en la ciudad de Curaco de Vélez, uno de los subsitios de la RHRAP en la isla de Quinchao. Claudio Delgado habló sobre los esfuerzos de Conservación Marina para proteger el hábitat de las aves playeras; Luis Espinoza lideró grupos de todas las edades para observar aves playeras en el subsitio cercano de la RHRAP, Chullec. La participante del taller Carolina Vidal, que trabaja para el departamento de turismo del gobierno provincial de Chiloé, habló sobre el orgullo que la comunidad siente por ser el hogar de tantos Zarapitos (el nombre común chileno tanto para las Zarapitos de pico recto como para su primo de pico curvo, el Zarapito común) en el verano austral La celebración incluyó actuaciones musicales, artesanías tradicionales y el famoso plato de mariscos curanto de Chiloé.

In the immediate term“A corto plazo, parte de las lecciones [del taller] se integrarán en un manual de buenas prácticas de acuicultura que estamos desarrollando para ayudar a mitigar su efecto negativo en el hábitat de los Zarapitos pico recto en Curaco de Vélez, y también para construir capacidad con empresas que desarrollan infraestructura costera que puede afectar a las aves playeras. Es importante que este tipo de talleres conecte a los socios de la red e incluya vecinos y amigos de los sitios, porque aumenta la comprensión y el debate sobre la posibilidad de acciones colaborativas”. Claudio Delgado, director de Conservación Marina, visto aquí observando aves Sitio de la RHRAP Maullín con personal de Manomet. Foto: Brad Winn.

Desde que terminó el taller, hemos continuado trabajando con los participantes para compartir información y orientación para ayudarlos a alcanzar sus objetivos de conservación de aves playeras. Sol Bustamante está a cargo de la Región de los Lagos de Chile por parte del Ministerio de Medio Ambiente federal. Ella quería mostrar las aves playeras de Chiloé en iniciativas educativas, materiales turísticos y en presentaciones a la Mesa Redonda Provincial de Humedales, así que hemos compartido fotos de Zarapito de pico recto, Zarapito común y especies residentes como la Becasina comúny Queltehue común para su uso en folletos informativos. Maribel Díaz compró recientemente una propiedad en la costa de la bahía de Pullao, y reconoció que miles de aves playeras descansaban en las marismas frente a su tierra. El equipo de Gestión de Hábitat la visitó después del taller para analizar las oportunidades de manejo de su sitio para aves playeras. Junto a la propiedad de Maribel, se encuentra el principal sitio de descanso de la bahía de Pullao, un área recientemente adquirida por Audubon que pertenece y es administrada por nuestra organización asociada Centro de Estudio y Conservación del Patrimonio Natural. Alrededor de la ensenada de esa propiedad se encuentra Refugio Pullao, un albergue de seis habitaciones que trabaja para conectar a los huéspedes con la maravilla de las aves playeras migratorias, propiedad de Carlos Grimalt, otro participante en el taller. La bahía de Pullao es otro de los humedales que conforman el sitio de la RHRAP en Chiloé. En nuestros últimos días en la isla, nos quedamos con la boca abierta, ya que casi 10.000 Zarapitos de pico recto se reunieron para descansar durante la marea alta en la Bahía Pullao.

Los Talleres de Ecología, Conservación y Manejo de Hábitat de Aves Playeras en Chile avanzaron para fortalecer las asociaciones y cultivar nuevas conexiones, vitales para mantener áreas protegidas para las aves playeras como Bahía Pullao, Maullín y el Estuario del río Maipo. ¡La planificación ya comenzó para futuros talleres en el sur de Chile!

A Whimbrel works onUn Zarapito común con su cena en los humedales cerca de Ancud, Chiloé. Foto: Maina Handmaker

A flock of HudsonianUna bandada de Zarapitos de pico recto en los humedales de Quilo en la isla de Chiloé. Foto: Brad Winn

An inquisitive BairdsUn inquisitivo Playero de Baird camina por la costa cerca de Ancud en la isla de Chiloé. Foto: Monica Iglecia

¡Mira más fotos de nuestros talleres de Chiloé y Santiago en el Facebook de Manomet!