The air is crisp and inviting. The sun feels stronger. I fly hour after hour, thinking about the next stop-over. Many shorebirds like Copper River Delta best of all because there are expanses of beautiful marshes - the Delta is the largest intact wetland on the North Pacific coast!
The best thing about the Delta is the amount of habitat it provides. Over a million birds can use the Delta in a single day. Over 20 million birds use the Delta during spring migration. All my western sandpiper friends will stop at the Delta. Scientists have found that the entire population of western sandpipers passes through this staging area within a week. The Delta is one of most important and heavily used staging areas in the world for western sandpipers!
The Copper River Delta region is a wonderful resource for us. It's wonderful to not worry about human disturbances, like skyscrapers and shopping malls. Here, on the Delta, we just need to worry about falcons and spring storms. Here there are bald eagles, moose, swans, and beavers. It's a very different world from our flight through California. Here we feed on tasty insects, tiny clams (mollusks), worms and crustaceans buried in the mud.
Like all Western Sandpipers, we feel incredibly lucky when we finally reach our final destination at the end of migration. It is wonderful to have some confidence now and feel surer of myself. We are almost there!
As I go over in my mind what will soon happen at our breeding grounds in the Arctic, Maria and Oxy suddenly appear! We are so happy to see each other again. It turns out that they had winds that helped them arrive 36 hours before me. They had a chance to rebuild their energy reserves and could spend the energy to try to find me!
Maria tells Oxy and me all the details of what we should expect when we reach the Arctic. We will each find a nesting site and will defend it against other birds. This is called territoriality and it ensures that my mate has a nesting site when I arrive - which is the first step in starting a family. My mate will show flight displays that may include wing fluttering, tail cocking, or nest scraping. Oxy and I giggle at the thought! These are more examples of behavioral adaptations. The females select the males. Once this happens we will breed and take turns incubating the eggs. After the chicks hatch, both my mate and I will help care for our young until they are almost ready to fly. Taking turns incubating and caring for them are behavioral adaptations of the western sandpiper to ensure the survival of the species.
With that brief lesson finished, the sun is setting and we continue to eat and eat and eat.