Reflecting On A May That Went To The Birds

USFWS AK tundra swan

In like a lamb, out like a migratory bird. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Maybe not, but that doesn’t change that May was an amazing time to celebrate something phenomenal about Alaska – the fact that it is home to a dizzying array of migratory birds, especially in northwest Alaska, home to the National Petroleum Reserve (Reserve)! Some of these feathered friends might even find their way into your own backyard!

This year, May 9 was the official observance of International Migratory Bird Day – so how does one celebrate such a holiday? With an entire month’s worth of migratory bird-related activities, of course. First on the list – a migration of origami tundra swans. The tundra swan is one of the birds that makes an amazing journey to the Reserve each year, migrating from the far northwestern corner of Alaska to places across the continent, including the very outskirts of our nation’s capital. Using this fact, we asked our supporters to help us create a virtual migration to the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Washington, DC, so the folks who manage this amazing piece of public land can understand that citizens from across the country want to see stronger protections for Special Areas in the Reserve.

Once the paper migration was complete, it was time for supporters to take the Brainy Bird challenge! Currently five areas of exceptional wildlife value have been set aside for protection within the Reserve – the Teshekpuk Lake, Colville River, Peard Bay, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Utukok River Uplands Special Areas. Each year, birds from across the country travel to these Special Areas to nest and raise their young. These protected Special Areas allow them to molt and recover from their long fall journeys, which can involve traversing many states. The Brainy Bird challenge was a way to learn more about the Reserve and the migratory birds that depend on it. If you’d like, you can take the challenge right now!

Finally, what better way to learn about migratory birds than to ask the experts? We worked with our colleagues at the Audubon Alaska to put together an op-ed that ran in The Hill the week following Migratory Bird Day. Nils Warnock, Audubon Alaska executive director, penned a piece aimed at explaining to Congress the importance of preserving the Reserve and its Special Areas – he finished with a congressional call to action: “Let’s celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by vowing to protect the Reserve’s globally important Special Areas for the birds and wildlife that depend on them.”

For all of you that participated in our “Migratory May” activities, we thank you. And we remind everyone that even though the next Migratory Bird Day is nearly a year away, every day is a great day to celebrate the public lands and waters in Alaska, and the wildlife – including the migratory birds – that depend on them.