The MMT Blog / Birds, Sun, & Fun: 2016 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival

Earlier this month, Major Marine Tours was thrilled to partner with the Cordova Chamber to provide round-trip boat transportation to the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. This was the first time Major Marine Tours has operated round-trip transportation between Whittier and Cordova for this annual festival and we are pleased to report that it was a great success!

The Fairweather Express II departed Whittier on a drizzly day on Friday, May 6th for the 5 ½ hour journey through Prince William Sound to Cordova. In addition to providing an affordable and convenient way for people to get to the Shorebird Festival, this cruise gave participants additional opportunities for sightseeing and birdwatching, providing a great bookend to a weekend in Cordova.

Along the way, guests visited a bustling kittiwake rookery, saw a large group of Dall’s porpoises, enjoyed views of the scenery in the Chugach National Forest, and saw dozens of seabird species. Upon arriving in Cordova in the early afternoon, guests disembarked the Fairweather Express II to find their lodging in the beautiful harbor town.

View of Cordova Harbor

Cordova is a small town nestled between the eastern side of Prince William Sound and the towering mountains of the Chugach National Forest. Located near the mouth of the Copper River, Cordova is known for its Copper River Salmon and offers a variety of recreational activities including hiking, glacier viewing, skiing, wildlife viewing, and fishing. Cordova is not accessible by road and is not a port of call for the large cruise ships that frequent Alaskan harbor towns, giving Cordova an off-the-beaten-path, authentic charm. As you walk down the street, don’t be surprised as nearly every local greets you with a smile and says hello.

The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival was founded 26 years ago to celebrate the 5 million shorebirds that migrate through the area every year. The Copper River Delta is an important feeding stop for migrating shorebirds on their way from Central and South America to Alaska and the Arctic. Shorebirds arrive in early May to feed in Cordova’s wetlands and tidal flats before finishing their long journey north.

Participants of the 2016 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival were treated to beautiful, sunny skies all weekend—a special treat given that Cordova is located in a temperate rainforest and often has rainy spring weather. The festival weekend was full of guest speakers, field trips to bird-viewing areas, arts and crafts shows, social events, and even a “Tour de Peeps” bicycle birding event. The highlight of the weekend was the field trip to Hartney Bay, where tens of thousands of shorebirds can be seen feeding along the tidal flats. The Cordova Chamber runs a shuttle throughout the weekend from downtown Cordova so participants have plenty of opportunities to witness these incredible birds, take photos, and appreciate the area’s beautiful scenery.

Shearwaters take flight at Hartney Bay

After a fantastic weekend in Cordova, participants re-boarded the Fairweather Express II on Sunday afternoon looking sun-kissed, with cameras full of photos. The sightseeing didn’t end there, though. On the way back to Whittier, guests were treated to sightings of several orca whales—a fitting end to a great weekend.

The Fairweather Express II docked in the Cordova Harbor

Major Marine Tours was pleased with the success of this trip and we look forward to partnering with the Cordova Chamber again next year to provide this unique transportation opportunity. Please check back on our website later this year for more information on the 2017 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival.