Just some Gee-Whiz that has no immediate impact on the 2011 season here in AK I thought you might find interesting.
I'm wrangling helicopters for Conoco out of Alpine. It's a fun job but sadly for me, a seasonal gig. One of my regular customers is a group of USGS bio's doing ongoing, multi-year research in the Colville River Delta (CRD). They came out of the field today and were telling me about their work and being the nature nerd that I am I got them talking about birds. One of their subject species is snow geese, and apparently they are pioneering new nesting areas in the CRD. From the bios' POV this is exciting because they get to directly observe and document something new as it's happening.
Accroding to their observations, in the past 5 years their numbers in the CRD have about tripled. These are actually Central Flyway birds that traditionally nested from the Mackenzie River Delta to about Kaktovik, but have expanded their range west along the Arctic coast. I asked the lead bio about the possibility of them pioneering new routes south through SC-AK and becoming Pacific Flyway birds. He said "Probably, eventually, but there's no way to predict when". He added that the Snows seen in SC nest on Wrangell Island and are a separate population from the Mackenzie birds.
I asked if the Snows in the CRD would displace other species like Canada's and White Fronts and he said he was unsure since the Snows are expanding into areas not used by other species.
Those guys have been out there since the 20th of May and have banded over 10,000 birds of different species, including 5,000 Snow Geese and 2,000 White Fronts. The rest were mostly shorebirds like Sand Pipers, Kitiwakes and Snipe.