Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
YUKON DELTA:Refuge Promotes Director'sBirding Initiative
Alaska Region, July 29, 2008
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Over the last several months, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge has taken several steps to promote the Refuge System’s Birding Initiative.  Working with colleagues at the local, state, and national levels, Refuge staff has been actively engaged in making their large and remote Refuge more "birder-friendly."

This spring, Refuge staff in Bethel, Alaska, continued their long-time practice of leading weekend birding trips in and around Bethel.  Coordinated by Park Ranger Christine McCaffery assisted by Acting Refuge Manager Mark Koepsel and Education Specialist Brian McCaffery, these trips were attended by dozens of local residents and out-of-town visitors.  With the aid of binoculars and a new Swarovski spotting scope provided by the Refuge, participants were treated to outstanding views of waterfowl, neotropical migrants, and tundra-dwelling shorebirds.  Many participants commented they had never realized the diversity of local birdlife.

That diversity was attractively conveyed by a local Boy Scout with the help of Refuge personnel. Bethel Regional High School student Richard Robb developed and installed an interpretive display, featuring common breeding birds, in a local park.  First, he consulted with former Deputy Refuge Manager Doug Staller and Brian McCaffery on content, design, and materials.  McCaffery then suggested that Richard contact Ted Swem, a Service biologist and exceptional wildlife photographer, about the possibility of using Swem's images in the display.  With Swem's generous assistance, Richard completed the interpretive display in time for the summer breeding season, and earned his Eagle Badge in the process.

Younger students in the Bethel area now have another opportunity to learn about birds and birding.  In cooperation with the Kuskokwim Consortium Library (University of Alaska—Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus), Christine McCaffery has designed a series of topical natural history "backpacks" for the library to use as part of their summer reading program. One of the set is specifically a birding backpack that comes complete with a birding guide, a pair of binoculars, and several bird education activities.  Students can check the backpack out from the library for up to two weeks, and can receive a special patch for completing the birding activities.

The Refuge also participated in a unique partnership to enhance the experience of birders on the Refuge.  In collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the U. S. Economic Development Administration (U. S. Dept. of Commerce), and Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, the Service contributed to the production of a 6-page glossy brochure entitled, Birding in Yup'ik Country. McCaffery wrote an introductory essay about birdlife of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and created the bird checklist at the heart of the brochure.  This brochure has been enthusiastically received by Refuge visitors, long-time residents, and the Bethel Chamber of Commerce.

Finally, the American Birding Association will soon be publishing the latest in their series of birding guides, A Birder's Guide to Alaska (2nd ed.).  Compiled and edited by long-time Alaskan birder and bird artist, George West, this second edition will include an entirely new chapter on birding the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.  Co-authored by Brian McCaffery, along with Paul Baicich and Jim Williams, this chapter highlights birding opportunities in several regions of the Refuge, including Bethel, near the villages of St. Mary's and Chevak, and on Nunivak Island.  By reaching a national audience, this book may inspire birders from across the country to come and explore the avian wonders of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

Contact Info: Brian McCaffery, 907-543-1014, brian_mccaffery@fws.gov
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