Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bird of the Week #10 - Sanderling

The Brigg offers memorable opportunities to get close to Arctic shorebirds as they leave and then return from their breeding grounds. These Sanderlings were part of a small flock stopping off briefly in May on their long journey to the tundra, with the left-hand bird (also pictured below) looking particularly sharp. 
A little behind on this photo-sorting, blogpost-encouraging BOTW project (hey, it's a busy time), but back on track with the quintessentially sandy shoreline seaside stunner, the Sanderling. A (very) high Arctic breeder, Sanderlings soon head south for the beaches and mudflats of Europe and Africa for the non-breeding season, which is when we're lucky enough to host them here on the Yorkshire coast.

For me, they symbolise the close season here, when my adopted seaside seaside hometown of Filey becomes a near-ghost town after a summer of tourists and day-trippers; by October, the crowds have depleted to a meagre scattering on the beach at most, and Sanderlings - gleaming in their ghostly winter polumage - finally get to reclaim a little of their natural off-season habitat.

Which is where you'll find them, scurrying like wind-up toys, often in manic little parties, along the receding shore, for which they're specially adapted - look closely and you'll find they lack a hind toe, an evolutionary advantage that makes speeding along on the soft sand even more of a breeze.

A Sanderling in January on Filey beach, in more familiar, ghostly winter plumage. 

Juveniles are equally stunning, with a more contrasting, spangled plumage (pictured here on Filey beach in early winter).