It took Harold Piel a few minutes to figure out what he was looking at, while stopping at a stretch of shoreline at the Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park.

“Initially I thought that was a pebble beach and I looked down but the pebbles all started flying away. Clearly, I was incorrect and they were actually birds,” Piel said.

What he witnessed is thousands of semipalmated sandpipers who stop at the Bay of Fundy on their journey from the Arctic to South America.

Piel is visiting from Ottawa along with his wife, Judy Andrew Piel.

Harold Piel and Judy Andrew Piel are visiting from Ottawa. They were excited they had the opportunity to see the sandpipers. (Jon Collicott/CBC News )

“It’s amazing to see that many birds together at one time moving as a flock,” Andrew Piel said. “Like Harold said, it’s almost like the whole beach moves. It’s really cool.”

Paul Gaudet is the interpretive service manager at the Hopewell Rocks tidal exploration site. He said people are often mesmerized by the sight of the sandpipers.

“They sometimes go out like a strand of DNA and they’re light on the bottom and dark on the top so they can go silver black, silver black, silver black,” he said. “People want to see them fly and it’s enchanting.”

The shorebirds are in the area for an important reason.

Gaudet said the Bay of Fundy is roughly halfway along their approximately 7,000-kilometre journey.

Paul Gaudet is the interpretive service manager at the Hopewell Rocks tide exploration site. He says the shorebirds are in the area to eat and build up energy before the next leg of their journey. (Jon Collicott/CBC News )

“They stop here to replenish the larder so to speak. They stop here and they feed on the mud flats at low tide and they eat and eat and eat and at high tide they roost or rest.”

The sandpipers are feasting on corophium, which Gaudet says are small mud shrimp, about the size of a grain of rice.

During their stay, the birds will double their weight.

Sandpipers make a stop in New Brunswick on a 7,000-kilometre journeyThousands of semipalmated sandpipers cut a spectacular swath over the Bay of Fundy. 1:47

“To use something everybody can understand, I guess if you had a Canadian quarter and you held it in the palm of your hand, that’s what they weigh approximately when they get here. And when they leave here, put another quarter in your hand and that’s what they weigh,” Gaudet said.

Kevin Snair, the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Hopewell Rocks, said the quiet, protected shoreline in the park also plays another key role.

“They really kind of use our beach when the tide is high as just a resting place to just be calm, conserve energy and wait for the buffet to open again,” he said.

Kevin Snair is the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Hopewell Rocks. He says the sandpipers have a quiet, protected area of shoreline to enjoy. (Jon Collicott/CBC News)

The semipalmated sandpipers will stay for a few weeks before leaving for their final destination more than 3,000 kilometres away.

“They’re going to fly non-stop to South America so they really need to conserve that energy,” Snair said.

They’ll make the journey in just over three days.

Gaudet says the number of semipalmated sandpipers stopping in the area has been on the decline over the last few years, although no specific reason has been pinpointed.

At one time, Gaudet would see 1.5 million to 2 million birds. He says it’s now more in the 500,000 range.

Snair said he’s encouraged by the number of birds showing up this year, the latest flock about 15,000 to 20,000.

The semiplamated sandpipers feed on tiny shrimp on the mud flats along the shore. (Jon Collicott/CBC News)

Mid August is the peak time to see the sandpipers. The ideal time for viewing is about two hours before high tide.

It’s a sight Snair hopes people will come and see.

“Where else can you see those kind of numbers right? And when they take flight, oh yeah, the silver in their wings as they’re flying, it’s magic,” he said.

Source From CBC News

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