This week sanderlings showed up on my local beach en masse — nearly a thousand little pinball birds, along with marbled godwits, whimbrels, and a variety of gulls. All were feeding on sand crabs in the wash of very big surf (which we’re expecting all week).
I love watching sanderlings moving in unison as waves recede, then turning and running quickly in unison chased by waves washing up the beach. Between ebb and flow they mill around in disarray, or are shooed away by the other birds. Their energetic behaviors are comical and their tenacity remarkable. All this activity for a bite of sand crab.
The most amazing thing about these little birds is that they’re here from the Arctic and are heading to the south end of South America. That’s an incredible migratory trip for any species, but I find it astounding for an 8 inch, 3 ounce (20 cm, 100 g) bird. Whenever they visit here, I’m enthralled.