Pandemonium reigned as I got out the camera and snuck in for a closer look.
Shorebirds for the most part will sometimes let you approach quite close. Maybe because this bird had just flown in from the arctic tundra making it “un-used” to modern civilization and all the dangers that may entail.
The smallest of Sandpipers are known collectively as peeps. In the Midwest there are generally 3 species that fall into this category: the Semipalmated Sandpiper, the Least Sandpiper, the Western Sandpiper, and sometimes the White-rumped Sandpiper although the last one is slightly bigger than the other three. Usually the Least Sandpiper is the most common of the Peeps and can be identified by its yellow-green legs. Semipalmated Sandpipers have black legs. Western Sandpipers have even more subtle differences, and aren’t very common in Minnesota.
There were all these little specks, that were tiny insects, on the dock that the bird was going after. There’s one now! Double take – that speck didn’t have a chance!
Now, what a funny name for a bird this “Semipalmated” thing. In Ornithology, the word palmated refers to the webbing between a bird’s foot. Usually webbed feet are typical of waterfowl like ducks. As you can see in this photo, there is partial webbing between this bird’s toes. And back in the early days, when most birds were identified in the hand, this may differentiate the small peeps. It’s a goofy name and also one that’s hard to spit out when you’re excited, so most people simply refer to them as Semipalms. (there’s also a Semipalmated Plover, so it can get a little confusing when you’re out in the field and there’s tons of shorebirds because both birds can, and do, occur together)