May 6: Birding Seldovia

Observations by Cindy Mom:

The nearly full moon brought a strong twenty-foot high tide to Kachemak Bay on Wednesday, May 6th. I volunteer as an observer for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project, so was happy to have sunny weather with light winds, and the opportunity to spent most of the day out on the water looking at birds. This was the sixth shorebird monitoring session for the 2020 season, which started back on April 11th, when there were still chunks of ice floating around in the bay.

The Beowulf
The Chuuchki

The town of Seldovia is accessible only by boat or plane. When leading trips to Seldovia for the Shorebird Festival, we use Red Mountain Marine’s locally built wooden boat, BEOWULF. For this year’s virtual tour, we’ll have to use my boat, CHUUCHKI, named for the Least Auklet. She’s only twelve feet long, but this is pretend anyway. You can come along for the ride, and get personal attention on an exclusive tour!

Our first stop is Elephant Rock, which at high tide allows for a kayak or small boat to pass underneath the elephant’s trunk. CHUUCHKI can fit through, although BEOWULF can’t.

High tide at Hoen’s Lagoon, located just behind Elephant Rock, is exciting. A wind coming in from Cook Inlet is pushing a bit of surf up against the inside of the lagoon’s spit. Dunlin seem to enjoy the action. Western Sandpipers, on the other hand, are hunkered down out of the wind. There are about three hundred of them resting on the spit. As the tide comes up and gets their feet wet, they move higher on the beach.

Western Sandpipers


Two Black Oystercatchers have been in residence here since at least April 24th. They are on the beach when we arrive. In dramatic Oystercatcher fashion, seventeen more fly in, land on the end of the spit, make a huge ruckus, splash around, and then fly off a few minutes later. My total count of 19 Black Oystercatchers raises the credibility flag on eBird. I can hardly believe it either, but here’s a photo of the seventeen newcomers

17 Black oystercatchers

Least Sandpiper
Short-billed dowitcher

Up at the head of Seldovia Bay, my shorebird monitoring site, Least Sandpipers are all over the rocky shore. Later, as the tide goes out, they happily feed in the mud flats. One Short-billed Dowitcher mingles with the Least Sandpipers, and looks absolutely huge by comparison.

A mixed flock of about eighty geese, dominated by Cackling Geese, also has a few surprises mixed in. Three Greater White-fronted Geese hang out nearby, and one Canada Goose stands head and shoulders above the Cackling Geese. I’ve struggled a bit with learning the difference between these two species over the years, but in this comparison shot there is absolutely no question who’s who.

Canada and Cackling Geese

Thanks for coming along with me on my Seldovia Bay boat ride. Tune in on Saturday to walk the Otterbahn Trail. We’ll also spend some time investigating the interesting creatures found in the intertidal zone, during one of the lowest tides of the year.

Cindy Mom has worked as a guide on St. Paul Island in Alaska’s Pribilofs (Bering Sea), served as a seabird and shorebird biologist for the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An all around naturalist, Cindy is the owner/operator of Seldovia Nature Tours.