Updated Dec. 29: I posted this originally as a Spotted Sandpiper. Sharp-eyed birder Kevin Steen emailed me to suggest that this bird is not a Spotted but a Least Sandpiper. On closer examination, I think Kevin is correct. This bird has a patterned back, is more chubby, does less teetering, and has a darker beak than the spotty. I’ve seen a Spotted Sandpiper on those rocks quite a few times and out of mental inertia assumed this was another one. Thank you Kevin for the update!
The Least Sandpiper, like its distant cousin the Spotted Sandpiper, is as much at home on the rocks at the water’s edge as anybody. The labyrinth of stones and water forms its dining room. The bird is wonderfully sure-footed. But not perfect. Here it slips on a steep wet slope and lands in the water. No problem. Even though it’s a land bird, having no webs on its toes, it floats effortlessly and very quickly finds its feet again.
Least Sandpipers usually visit here in flocks, circling over the water with flashing wings and then settling down to peck the mud at high speed like a sewing machine. It’s unusual to see one of them feeding solo.
Least Sandpipers are long-distance migrants. They breed in the Arctic tundra in summer and fly thousand of miles to warmer spots for the winter. East Coast Least Sandpipers fly from Canada or northern New England some 2,000 miles or more nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean to reach South America.