Yukon Coast, Yukon
The Blow River Delta is located on the northeast Yukon Coast, where the river enters the Beaufort Sea. The site extends about 35 km in length, starting at the west with Shingle Point, and Escape Reef, a small island about 10 km offshore of the Blow River delta, through Whitefish Station, Shoalwater Bay, and finally, to Tent Island on the east. The inland eastern part of this site includes Moose Channel, which is the extreme northwestern arm of the massive Mackenzie River delta system to the east. The site extends inland from the coast up to 15 km to include areas of channels, ponds, and salt marshes. Storm tides can inundate a large part of the grass-sedge flats, hence a wide band of land is considered to be influenced by the sea. Most of the coastline that is not delta habitat consists of gravel and sand beaches.
Like other parts of the Yukon coast, this area is used for staging and breeding by a number of species of birds, but it is especially important for the habitat it provides to shorebirds and Snow Geese in the fall. In mid-September, 1983, a peak of 31,000 Lesser Snow Geese were recorded over the entire area, which is about 6% of the Western Central Flyway population (breeding in Alaska and northwestern Canada). Globally significant numbers of American Golden Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper migrated through the area in the fall of 1972, with 6,472 (4% of the global population) and 6,123 (12% of the global population) recorded, respectively. Total population estimates of both species are poorly known and so the percentages given are approximate. Also in the fall of 1972, a peak count of 14,790 shorebirds was made.
Escape Reef supports a large colony of Glaucous Gulls - 249 pairs were found nesting in 1987, and 278 pairs nesting in the same location three years earlier (approximately 1% of the global population). Most of the nests are on the vegetated central parts of the reef that are more stable. The gulls are still present in late August (392 seen in 1983).
Other species breeding in the area are Black Brant, Arctic Tern (several colonies), Common Eider, Pacific Loon, Tundra Swan, Oldsquaw, and Red-necked Phalarope. Over 600 scoters can be found moulting offshore in late summer, while Red-necked Phalaropes can gather in large numbers, with at least a thousand present in early fall, 1983.
Oil and gas exploration, along with the associated infrastructure development, is still a concern in the area. There are currently ongoing exploration activities on the Alaska coastal plain, and in the Beaufort Sea. The Glaucous Gulls from the Escape Reef colony sometimes are attracted by Inuit hunting and fishing camps on Shingle Spit. Rapid and widespread coastal erosion may also be reducing habitat and directly threatening nesting sites.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status