Semipalmated Sandpipers on St. Pete Beach, FL

20160430-IMG_0175 What shall we name them? The tiny sandpipers that skitter across the crushed beach shells and stop on a dime to dip their bills below the surface of the wave. They play a game of cat and mouse with the tide. The waves push all of their tiny treasures up on the sand for safe keeping and then pull them back, hitched to the rear bumper of the foamy curtail of saltwater. This monotonous ceremony provides a very large hourglass to the sandpipers containing only a bit of sand.

Run toward wave--blurry black legs beating like a mixer--eat things. All the things. Things you cannot see but with my tiny eyes, I can spot them moving. They are beacons. But hurry! Run toward your friend. Stay within two feet of your friend. Run away--new wave--run back.

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These tiny friends were Johanna's favorite and she laughed at them every time they made a break for it. She laughed with them. I like to think playing tag with the waves makes everyone laugh.

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Semipalmated Sandpipers are small, only about 5 inches tall. So those tiny creatures they suck up into their bills must be quite small (a maximum of 5mm long). They are spiders, snails and a great deal of different types of larvae.

Like most shorebirds, sandpiper nests are easy to disturb. These sandpipers lay their eggs in mere depressions on the ground. Some lay under bushes or in small tussocks. And they line their nests with whatever plant matter five minutes of gathering will provide. It's a very simple act. Both male and female incubate their 4 eggs and then only around 2 weeks after hatching, the parents desert the nest and leave the fledglings to fend for themselves.

These birds migrate for great distances at a time. Sometimes up to 2,500 miles without stopping. Because they are in nonbreeding plumage, they can easily be confused with Western Sandpipers which migrate shorter distances. If you look very closely though, Semipalmated Sandpipers have a more rounded bill tip and shorter legs.

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This weekend we'll take a break from birds and have a look at something with fur. Something very cute and mischievous.

Oh and to answer my own question, I've named them Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for their investigative prowess.