Duskies: From Cordova to Oregon

Over the summer, I traveled to Cordova, Alaska with the University of Oregon Climate Change Reporting Project. One of my main focuses during my month-long stay was the dusky Canada goose. I accompanied members of the Forest Service through the banding and artificial nest island maintenance processes, documenting primarily through photography and audio the journey of the dusky Canada goose through its nesting season on the Copper River Delta. Now, back in Oregon, the duskies are arriving in their Willamette Valley wintering grounds. I will finish the story this coming winter. Their story, connected from Cordova to Oregon, will be told in the context of changing weather patterns, temperatures, and evolving habitat type that affects future populations of duskies.

A series of photos and audio slideshow mark the beginning of a multimedia presentation to be published soon on http://scienceandmemory.uoregon.edu/

In the spring, birds flock to Cordova, Alaska for nesting season. The dusky Canada goose, a subspecies of the Canada goose, uses the marshy, grass-filled Copper River Delta as its sole nesting habitat.

The ecosystem of the Copper River Delta changed abruptly when the 1964 earthquake lifted the wetland, turning it from a saltwater—to a freshwater—dominated system. Where at first the dusky Canada goose population spiked post-1964, it has since sharply decreased due to this change in habitat type over time. Shrubs and trees have grown up, and duskies now have less protection from predators such as bears, wolves, coyotes and bald eagles.

Fewer duskies nesting on the delta means the implementation of stricter hunting regulations in Oregon and Washington, the duskies’ wintering grounds. According to a U.S. Forest Service report, these restrictions could limit recreational activity and bring significant economic impacts to agriculture, especially in Oregon from large population increases of other geese subspecies formerly controlled through hunting.” Thus, the dusky Canada goose is considered a species of concern.

During the summer months, members of the Forest Service wildlife team travel via airboat to remote areas of the Delta to monitor and combat these changes.

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