While the majority of sandpiper species fly north into Canada to breed, some, like Spotted Sandpipers, find suitable habitat right here in New England. Perhaps you've seen a Spotted Sandpiper land on a dock at a local lake, walk along a sandy river's edge, or forage atop a rocky coastal ledge. If so, you've witnessed their teetering behavior. The following video clip shows the typical body movements of a foraging bird. (Note the video was shot on Stratton Island in York Co., ME, and features the loud calls of Common Terns who nest in large numbers on this small island 3 miles east of Old Orchard Beach.)
If you've never watched one forage, perhaps you've accidentally flushed one and witnessed their distinctive flight style -- alternating snappy wing beats with glides, often just above water -- coupled with their loud alarm calls.
If Spotted Sandpipers are entirely new to you, I'd like to recommend that you acquaint yourself with them (ask a local birder if s/he knows where you might find one). Who knows, one of these birds may point you to an experience you've never had before, such as happened for me on the first day of this month.
I was watching and photographing a Spotted Sandpiper atop a sand mound at the Sanford Lagoons when I noticed the bird crouch and tilt his/her head to look skyward. I looked up, too, and saw a large black-and-white raptor flying directly overhead. Photos would later convince me that I'd seen (and not simply dreamed of) my first Swallow-tailed Kite -- not a bird I expected to see that morning, let alone any morning in Maine. And all thanks to an observant Spotted Sandpiper!
Learn more about Spotted Sandpipers at All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.
If you've attended a plant walk with me, you've probably witnessed my delight when crossing paths with a number of tiny flowering plants. Three of my favorite summer species are Rayless Chamomile (aka Pineapple Weed), Red Sand-spurry, and the disturbed ground, pavement-crack specialist known as Green Carpetweed (Mollugo verticillata). As with many plants, you'll need a sunny day to observe the open flowers -- in cloudy weather they tend to close up. These tiny flowers mature into a capsule that eventually splits into three parts to reveal even tinier brown seeds.
Arthur Haines* writes that the entire above-ground portion of the plant is edible, though he recommends gathering early in the growing season when the texture and flavor are at their best. I was a little late for sampling this year, but I've made a note to sample them in early June of next year.
To view the following images in full-size, click here.
Lesser Yellowlegs nest in Alaskan and Canadian boreal forests and pass through New England on their way to and from. Earlier this year, I covered a few of the physical and auditory differences between Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, in my post on the former. In short, Lesser Yellowlegs are the smaller of the two species, with a shorter (about the same length as the head), straight bill and less strident single or paired call notes.
To learn more about these shorebirds, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.