Least Sandpipers are the smallest of the sandpipers, measuring about 5.5 inches and weighing about 1 oz. They spend the winter from the mid-southern US to northern South America and breed primarily in the tundra of northern Canada. They are migrating through the North Carolina coast this time of year. I was fortunate to be able to spend a morning with them earlier this week. I've photographed them in my home state of North Carolina, on the Maine coast, and in The Bahamas, but will never pass up the opportunity to share a sandy shoal with them.
For this photograph, I was lying flat on the sand. The tide was rising and the birds were at the far end of the sand shoal. As the tide came in, the small flock of about a dozen sandpipers began foraging in my direction. The only move I made was to track the birds with the camera. The sandpipers clearly noticed this unusual blob (me) on the shoal, but did not change their behavior and passed within ten feet. As they passed, I remained still until they were far enough away to remain undisturbed.
A new study by Manomet (https://www.manomet.org/publication/new-study-conservation-actions-slow-decline-shorebird-populations/)
found negative population trends for 26 of 28 shorebird species studied. The greatest declines were found along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. For Least Sandpipers, the study found a declining population. Unfortunately, this was the trend for most of the species studied.
These diminutive shorebirds will be gone soon, heading to northern Canada breeding areas. I hope to see them again on their southbound migration.