[Ben Clock, Assistant Curator of Video, Macaulay Library] The Arctic coastal plain is a very flat, almost grassland-like habitat in Alaska, sloping towards the Arctic Ocean. But out there the wind is almost always blowing and one of my favorite experiences always is walking out across the tundra – which in the early spring has potholes filled with water – and spending time just sitting on the tundra listening to the sounds of the shorebirds. The Semipalmated sandpiper is one of the prominent vocalizations up there always. Almost always the male starts from a perch either on a hummock of grass or sometimes on a piece of driftwood. And the bird takes flight usually beginning its vocalization as it starts to fly, and pointing into the headwind with these fluttery, tiny wing beats – they can stay almost stationary while they deliver their repetitive, gurgling vocalization called the motorboat. And it really does sound like kind of a petering of a motorboat. Sometimes the gurgles become a little bit more emphatic, eventually kind of escalating into a cascade the sounds. I feel like shorebirds have sort of a hidden life, that not that many people have the chance to experience all of these interesting shorebird species including the semipalmated sandpiper I’ve seen, I had seen for years on migration. But up on the tundra you get to see a part of their lives that is just remarkable. And it’s really characterized by this phenomenal vocalization. [Audio Recordings and Photographs: Gerrit Vyn]

End of transcript

The Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska is not far from the Arctic Ocean. During the spring, the songs of many shorebirds can be heard throughout the area. The male Semipalmated Sandpiper begins its vocalization as it takes flight from a perch. The vocalization is repetitive, like the sound of a motorboat. Tiny wingbeats allow the Semipalmated Sandpiper to stay almost stationary above the tundra landscape as it calls.

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