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!