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 Maya's Adventure:

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  Program Description
  Goals & Objectives
  Maya's Story
    - For Teachers
    - Chapter 1
    - Chapter 2
    - Chapter 3
    - Chapter 4
    - Chapter 5
    - Chapter 6
    - Chapter 7
    - Chapter 8
    - Chapter 9
    - Chapter 10
    - Glossary
  What is a Wetland?
  Teacher Resource      Center
  Electronic Field Trip/Webcast
Chapter 5: Fear of the Falcon

Suddenly I hear my mother cry with a high-pitched cheet, "Falcons are coming--take flight!" Her short song consists of a few notes rising in pitch and then fades off with the breeze. What she "cheets" to us may sound like a strange suggestion, but the best defense for a shorebird against a raptor is to become airborne. Once in the air, we can get up to an evasive flight speed, maintain a tight flock formation and thus outmaneuver that menacing beast.

I can see through the grasses at my back that they aren't threatening. I "cheet" back to my mother so that she doesn't worry about me and knows that I am ok. I scan the shoreline and see Oxy and Maria in the distance. They look safe, too.

I look back again at my mother and think about how beautiful she is. Now that the danger of the falcon is gone, she is preening her feathers. She has arrow shaped spots on her breast and sides--and has other common Western Sandpiper features like a belly that is a light buff color. She looks identical to other shorebirds, but she is my mother and very special to me. I'm told that when we reach the breeding grounds in Alaska her coloring will change so that she has a rust- and tan-speckled head and shoulders. In other words, we have two sets of clothing: the breeding plumage and the non-breeding plumage, which are like two different dresses to humans. In each situation, a change in the way we look ensures that we blend into the background. That way, we can hide from predators.

Now the sun has set into the ocean and the breeze has died down completely. This is the time of day when I think about the future and make myself more nervous than usual. But I have a good reason to be. Tomorrow we start off on our very long journey north. Jorge, Oxy, Maria, Abuelito, and my parents have gone to great lengths to help me prepare. We will be together for the whole journey, which makes me happy.

I doubt I will be able to sleep tonight. I see Abuelito just six feet away, and he already has one leg tucked into his chest for at least part of the night. I want to ask my mother one last question, but she is already asleep. She did a good job over the past two weeks insisting that I eat and eat and save my energy for the long flight ahead of me. I am as ready as I can be. I have doubled my body weight in just a few weeks; I have preened and re-preened my feathers so that they are clean and prepared for the upcoming journey. I have asked all the questions I can think of and can picture many wetlands from Abuelito's stories, which we will soon see.

Right as I'm about to fall asleep, Jorge swooshes right above my head and cheeps, "Get a good night's sleep, because tomorrow you start one long, wild, and crazy ride!"

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