Left: Sky-blocking flocks of sandpipers lift off when disturbed.
Below: One of millions of sandpipers, this one a least sandpiper, at
the Copper River Delta in southeastern Alaska.
After the falcon’s successful
attack, the shorebirds settled
down and the tide began to ebb.
Several dozen birders stood
along the roadside. I was with
my friend, fellow photographer,
and biologist Milo Burcham.
Milo is a long-time Cordova
resident, and he’s had the oppor-
tunity to watch the shorebird
migration for years. Southern
Prince William Sound, where
Cordova is located, is a wet
place, and our day on the bay
was no exception. A low ceiling
of clouds hung over the water,
obscuring the still-snowy moun-
tains that rose straight from the
tideline. For the time being, it
wasn’t raining, but I suspected we
wouldn’t be dry for long.
Behind us, away from the
water, a temperate rainforest rose
into the mist. From the trees we
could hear the calls of Steller’s
jays and the twittering song of
Pacific wren. Closer, a chip note
drew my attention. In the row
of scruffy willows between the
beach and the trees, a mixed flock
of sparrows foraged. From the
group I could make out song,
white-crowned, and golden-
crowned sparrows. When a rufous
hummingbird blasted through my
binocular view it drove home the
diversity of the dripping forest.
As though on cue, rain spat-
tered the water and then the
hoods of our jackets. We covered
our optics and headed toward
Milo’s truck, parked a short dis-