Visitors to our Adventure Resort over the last month or so may have noticed 4 orange cones set in a square pattern in our parking lot and wondered what was going on. If you asked one of my kids, they would have excitedly shown you the Sand Piper eggs nestled in a depression in the gravel.
The Spotted Sandpiper is freshwater shorebird, although it can be found inland near any body of water that helps provide it with a diet of insects, earthworms and other invertebrates. Clutches generally contain 4 eggs, although 3 (and rarely 5) are also possible. Spotted Pipers are polyandrous (with up to 5 mates), and the Dad usually incubates the eggs. We had 2 sandpipers around the outfitters, and while I often thought that there might be a 2nd nest, I was never able to find it. Eggs are laid in a shallow depression on the ground, sometimes under shrubs or a fallen log, and sometimes lined with grass, moss or feathers. The clutch at our resort was laid in an unlined, shallow depression in the gravel and had 4 eggs. Protection of the eggs relied heavily on natural camouflage and distraction of potential predators by the parent. Whenever we approached closely, both birds would fly off and then land a distance away, pretending to be hurt. The birds were often out and about on summer days, but were always back on the nest for the night-time cold.
This was not the first year that we had the birds, but it is the first time that I was around right after the chicks hatched. When they first hatched, it looked like they hadn’t made it. They were not moving and looked somewhat wet. When we went back later, they had fluffed out and were in a different position, so we knew that they were doing just fine. They never moved any of the times that we were to look at them, and I suspect that this behavior is a protective mechanism. By the next day, the chicks were gone from the nest during the day. Sandpiper chicks fledge at 17-21 days, so it will be a while before we remove the cones. If you happen to come by in May, take a look and see how they are doing!