• September 2021 Photo-observation of the Month

    A rare Upland Sandpiper photographed in Bennington, VT. © Coleen Lawlor

    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!

    With 18,334 observations submitted by 1,907 observers in September, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

    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!

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    Comments (3)

    1. Ted Allen says:

      Back in the nineties, I promoted an agreement with the Vermont AOT to mow Vermont airports late in the season in the hopes of preserving UPSA nesting habitat in Vermont. Unfortunately, the AG’s office torpedoed the deal to protect the state from liability in case a sandpiper caused an aircraft to crash at a Vermont airport. I’m delighted to see that at least one sandpiper got to spend a fall vacation in Vermont at one of our airports. None of the other airports are reporting them as present anymore, nor is pretty much anywhere else in Vermont.

      • Jason Hill says:

        Hey Ted,
        For our research affixing satellite tags to Upland Sandpipers to track their migration and non-wintering areas (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2019.00426/full) we captured them at multiple military airfields (Joint Base Cape Cod (MA), Patuxent Air Reserve Base (MD), Westover AFB (MA), and Fort McCoy Airfield (WI) where the sandpipers breed in between the runways. The airfield staff, working with the base biologists, manage the mowing and grass height to keep the planes AND the birds safe. It definitely can be safely done.

      • Coleen Lawlor says:

        Ted Allen,

        I want to thank you for your attempt to protect this birds nesting habitat here in Vermont. It is a very sad story that the AG’s office was unwilling to study the situation more instead of just reacting.

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