A little research revealed that while most sandpipers spend their lives on the coast, some of them do frequent wetlands further inland. And sightings in West Virginia of Spotted, Semipalmated, and Least Sandpipers are not uncommon. Perhaps the birds are captivated by the Potomac Highlands from above and stop down for a visit along their migration routes. Some sandpipers fly from South America all the way to their breeding grounds in Northern Canada. According to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, there are over 200 species of birds that visit the state during their migrations - this in addition to the over 75 species that live and breed here. In fact, this stretch of the Appalachians has the highest biodiversity of anyplace in the country that doesn't have a coastline.
We may be 4,000 feet above and 6 hours away from the salty edge of the continent, but perhaps we're not so far removed from the coastal environment after all. If the sandpipers appreciate West Virginia just fine without an ocean, maybe we can too. -JPD