Congratulations to iNaturalist user Coleen Lawlor for winning the September 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Her photos of a handsome and uncommon Upland Sandpiper roaming the grassy plains of the William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.
Upland Sandpipers are almost exclusively found in large, contiguous grassland habitats during the breeding season, and as such have been steadily declining in the state (and North America in general) due to habitat fragmentation as well as earlier and more frequent mowing and haying of suitable fields. The 2nd Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas reported an 85% decrease statewide. With this in mind, any Upland Sandpiper sighting in the state will surely draw the attention of birders. This individual was first spotted by a pilot taxiing on the runway of the airport, who snapped a distant photo and sent it to a bird-savvy friend. Several local birders were able to peer past the airport fencing in the coming weeks and see this grassland sandpiper strolling alongside runways and seemingly taking full advantage of the human-altered grassland surrounding the runway. While perhaps not as famous as Konza, this Upland Sandpiper was a truly exciting find well-documented by Coleen!
Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!