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Tufted puffin bringing a bill load of fish to feed its puffling (chick). Pc Robin Corcoran

Tracking Puffins in the Kodiak Archipelago. 10/18, 5pm-6pm (AKDT)

The bobbing orange and yellow bills of Tufted and Horned Puffins are signs of summer off the coast of Alaska. These beloved birds have sometimes been called “clowns of the seas” due to their playful appearance. However, little is known about where these iconic species overwinter when they spend eight to nine months at sea away from breeding colonies. Join Robin Corcoran and Katie Stoner to learn about the ecology of Tufted and Horned puffins. Discover the habitats of Kodiak’s puffins and hear how Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with Oregon State University, is working to better understand and investigate factors that might be impacting populations of these two charismatic seabirds within the Kodiak Archipelago.

Katie Stoner “grubbing” puffins on Chiniak Island. It takes a long arm to reach into the puffin burrows. pc:Robin Corcoran/USFWS

In-person and virtual attendance options to enjoy this presentation: zoom from wherever you are, hear the speakers in person in Kodiak or join one of two watch parties.

  • The zoom webinar link will be found here closer to the meeting OR
  • In Kodiak, join us for the presentation at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center with a speaker reception starting at 4:30. 
  • In Soldotna, a watch party at 5 p.m. at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road followed by volunteer orientation for those interested.
  • In Homer, a watch party at 5 p.m. at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge’s Islands & Ocean Visitor Center followed by an opportunity to join Friends and learn about volunteer opportunities with the Refuges.

Robin Corcoran has said that it is a dream come true that part of her duties  as Avian Biologist for Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge are the same things that she would do in her free time – watch and photograph birds.  In spite of  growing up on Long Island outside of New York, she got to play unsupervised in a woods, a marsh and shore where she developed her passion for all wild things.  She particularly likes birds because they are more diverse than mammals.  Since Robin started working at Kodiak Refuge in 2009, she has studied everything from Kittzlitz’s Murrelets nesting on rocky mountain tops, to the rapidly declining Aleutian Tern. Robin oversees an annual songbird mist netting and banding program and spends much of each summer navigating the Kodiak Archipelago coastline by skiff to count nearshore marine birds.   Hear more about Robin’s interesting career on this podcast.  


Katie Stoner is an Oregon State University PhD student working in collaboration with Kodiak Refuge for her dissertation research assessing the conservation status and threats to Tufted and Horned Puffins breeding in the Kodiak Archipelago within the Gulf of Alaska.  She developed a passion for wildlife and birdwatching while attending summer camps with the Audubon Society of Portland in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resource Ecology from the University of Vermont. During her undergraduate degree, she had the opportunity to volunteer for Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge on the refuge’s Kittlitz’s Murrelet Nesting Ecology Project, and she used data from her fieldwork on this project to complete her undergraduate thesis. 

After graduating, Katie gained experience studying avian ecology as part of several different research programs. She contributed to the conservation of threatened and endangered petrels and shearwaters in the tropical mountains of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast and monitored tree nests of the Marbled Murrelet in Oregon’s coastal forests. She lived in remote field camps for her work including in the backcountry of the Kodiak Archipelago, on Chowiet Island in the Gulf of Alaska, and on the windy slopes of Cape Crozier on Ross Island, Antarctica studying Adelie Penguins for Point Blue Conservation Science. 

Katie is thrilled to return to Alaska and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge to learn the secrets of Alaska’s “clowns of the seas.”




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    2021 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Recap

    Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge co-sponsored the 29th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska, May 6-9, 2021.

    Festival Coordinator’s Wrap Up  by Melanie Dufour  

    The annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, held on traditional Sugpiaq and Deni’ina lands in Homer, Alaska, happened in 2021 like never before.  It was my first year as Festival Coordinator, we, I especially, learned a lot!  I appreciate all those on the Shorebird Committee who supported me and let me lean on their years of experience.

    This year the Festival was a hybrid, holding space for virtual speakers, workshops, and fun activities alongside new and old guided birding excursions, wildlife viewing, and kayaking tours– offered for people of all ages and abilities. The locations of these events ranged from the head of Kachemak Bay to Lake Clark, and along the river and ridges of our community.

    And of course, the birds arrived as did the people! At least 17 different species of birds were spotted, including the Ruddy Turnstone which was chosen as this year’s bird of the festival.  

    The Festival Artist Oceana Wills, and our community volunteer artists who gave their time painting a 6”x6” canvas for the Art & Adventure Auction, added beauty. Every single tour operator, guide, and organization that partnered with us, as well as the generous donors and businesses in our community, ALL gave so much to ensure a welcoming, safe, and memorable experience that will no doubt draw people back when the shorebirds make their stopover next May. 

    This 29th Annual Festival was like no other. We are all looking forward to the 30th Annual Festival to be held May 4th -8th 2022 where along with the ‘feet on a trail, boat on the water explorations, and fun’ of this year, we hope to add sitting together in a room, applauding our speakers, sharing that perfect frame in our binocs– and our smiles!– while still livestreaming all of it across the world. 

    The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges continues to be a great sponsor with continuous support of the Festival and the Coordinator role in this year of transitioning coordinators.  The AK Friends work well in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maritime National WIldlife Refuge. We look forward to many more Festivals to come in the future.

     




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    September Advocacy Report: Add your comments!

    by David Raskin, Friends Board President

    Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
    The House Natural Resources Committee marked up their portion of the Budget Reconciliation bill that includes repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program and a buy-back of all existing leases. The language will now be merged into the full reconciliation bill and taken up by the full House. This successful effort was led by the excellent lobbying work by Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ARDC). 
     
    The comment period for the Notice of Intent of scoping for the Supplemental EIS (SEIS) is open until October 4
    , 2021. BLM is holding six virtual scoping meetings for the SEIS that will take place September 14, 15, and 16. If the reconciliation bill is enacted with the House language that terminates the Arctic drilling leases, this exercise will become moot. 
     
    A new threat to the Coastal Plain emerged with an SF 299 application by Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) for a winter right-of-way across the tundra in a wilderness study area. KIC claims to be an inholding according to provisions of ANILCA, like the claim made by King Cove for a road through the Izembek Wilderness. KIC had previously been granted an emergency permit to move school modules across the ice in winter, but this request is for an annual permit to move goods and supplies across land each year. Like King Cove, Kaktovik seems not to qualify as an inholding since it has marine access and other alternatives for the proposed uses. The Fish and WIldlife Service (FWS) review of their application must be completed by October 5 to determine the additional information that KIC will need to include to complete the application. 


    Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

    Oral arguments were held before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 4 concerning the defendants’ appeal of our second successful lawsuit that stopped the illegal land transfer for the proposed road. Trustees for Alaska did an outstanding job of arguing our position. During this session, the Court suggested a possible stay of the proceedings until after Secretary of the Interior Haaland’s scheduled September 17 visit to King Cove. The Court was concerned that after her visit, the Secretary might take actions that would effectively resolve the lawsuit and waste the resources of the Court if the proceedings were not stayed. The plaintiffs indicated that we would not oppose a stay of the proceedings, but the Government and the State opposed a stay. However, on September 6, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that Secretary Haaland postponed her trip due to concerns about the high level of Covid-19 infections in Alaska. We have not heard how this latest development might influence the Court’s decision regarding a possible stay of the proceedings.

    The Fish and Wildlife Servic (FWS) denied the use of helicopters to access the Izembek Wilderness in special use permits requested by the State Department of Transportation to inventory cultural resources and wetlands for the proposed Isthmus Road. The FWS issued permits that required access by foot, but the State has refused to sign the permits without helicopter access. We are very pleased that there will be no on-the-ground-activity this summer.

    Sturgeon Decision
    There has been no further action following the Supreme Court decision in Sturgeon v. Frost, 139 S. Ct. (1066) 2019. Based on this ruling and ANILCA Sec. 103, the State of Alaska asserted primary jurisdiction over navigable waters on federal lands in Alaska.

    Other Refuges
    We have no significant updates on Kenai Refuge regulations, Yukon Flats Refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings, the Mulchatna caribou her and possible predator control in Yukon Delta and Togiak Refuges, and the BLM Central Yukon Plan.