August 12, 2013

Spotted Sandpiper Dines at Playscape

Spotted sandpiper stands in the sandplay area
While weeding around the new plantings at the nature Playscape at Ripley this evening, I was joined by a lively, bobbing spotted sandpiper, a trait characteristic of spotted sandpipers.  Not expecting such a novel dinner guest, I left my real camera at home and did my best with my iPhone.

This delicate and nimble sandpiper is a quick and able hunter.  It spent much of its time cruising the stonedust trail which is littered with fermenting black cherries and opportunistic insects.  It kept one eye on me for almost an hour as it worked the paths, the bark mulched beds, and the freshly mown grass borders.  As I became more still, trying to get some photographs, it approached more boldly unprotected by covering vegetation...another spotted sandpiper trait.

While choosing each next foraging spot, it would daintily bounce its butt, then zero in on its target, stretch its body forward in a straight line, then spear its prey and display it proudly before gulping it down.

There was some initial confusion about this bird's identity, spotted vs. solitary sandpiper.  With the feedback of experienced area birders the Spotted ID was confirmed.  Spotted sandpipers breed in Massachusetts, often near small and insubstantial wet areas and will boldly forage in a variety of open areas.  It's ID challenge was a perfect lesson in cultivating a sense of place on the very landscape that is being designed to help children and the community foster a deeper connection to their wild roots and companions, wherever we are.  For more about the Playscape project, see Playscape at Ripley.

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