Birding Enthusiasts Prepare for Migratory Birds

Apr 21, 2015

Swans and other migratory birds are showing up early this year.

Nathan Coutsoubos uses a scope to spot migratory birds on Aleknagik Lake.
Credit Matt Martin

Migratory birds have been starting to show up in Bristol Bay over the past couple weeks. Local bird enthusiasts have been out to find them and record their numbers. Nathan Coutsoubos started birding in college. He says it’s a good excuse to get outdoors and he just loves critters.

“It’s fun because birds, unlike mammals, want to be seen. They’re just cool. They’re pretty and it’s neat to watch the season turn with the birds. And they can fly, which is awesome,” said Coutsoubos.

Coutsoubos isn’t the only one with an eye to the sky. Wildlife Biologist Michael Swaim with the Togiak Refuge keeps a yearly list of all the birds he sees and when they arrive.

“It’s pretty informal. There’s some slop in it. It kind of depends on what people are seeing and what they are reporting,” explained Swaim.

So far this year, Swaim has 12 species on his list such as swans, pintails, white-fronted geese, varied thrush, among others. According to the list, swans are about two weeks earlier this year. Swaim says because of the warm weather more water is ice free and that has allowed migratory birds to move north faster.

Coutsoubos took the new group out to Aleknagik Lake to get a look at some of the early migratory birds that are starting to show up. He shouted with excitement when he saw two white-fronted geese swimming by the swans. He is looking forward to a few weeks from now when he says there will be 10 or 15 species in his yard.

“You can go out the front porch and have your cup of coffee and just hear bird calls,” said Coutsoubos.

Coutsoubos will be teaching an official birding class at the Bristol Bay Campus early next month. It is a weekend birding and camping class at Camp Constantine.  You can contact the university for more information at (907)842-5109.

Contact Matt Martin at (907)842-2200 or