Semipalmated Sandpipers
by Brent Bomkamp

 

As members of the Oyster Bay community, we are fortunate to have one of the largest National Wildlife Refuges on Long Island protecting the waters of West Harbor, Cold Spring Harbor, and Oyster Bay Harbor. This preserved area provides shelter for countless marine organisms and the species that rely on them for food.
The month of August gives us the opportunity to observe a bird that is dependent on the marine ecosystem of our bay to provide the energy for its flight. Between the months of July & August many Semipalmated Sandpipers, shorebirds with long bills and legs equipped for feeding in shallow water, congregate on our shores to store energy for their long flight south.
Despite being only five inches long and weighing less than an ounce, they undergo one of the most incredible migrations on our planet. After feeding in the nutrient-rich waters of the Long Island Sound the birds begin a non-stop, week-long flight to the north shore of South America to take advantage of the warmth of the equator, generally landing in the vicinity of Guyana and Suriname. By the time they reach the continent, they will have utilized every ounce of fat stored over the preceding eight weeks.
Conservation and maintenance of these waters as habitat for this species is vital to its survival, so over the next month take a trip down to the shores of Oyster Bay to appreciate this shorebird preparing for its 2,700 mile commute!