Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When in Rome (or Boundary Bay) ...

Laurie noticed them first. We were watching peeps along the water line at Boundary Bay. They foraged in small groups, about a half to one dozen at a time, strung out as far as we could see either way. Most of them were these:

Sanderlings in winter plumage

Small, round, pale grey. bright white. Black bill and feet.
 My bird guide, Audubon ... Western Region, says,
"Unlike most sandpipers, they are quite tame even during winter and are a delight to watch as they retreat and advance with the breaking waves." ... flocks of Sanderlings ... spread out in long lines along the water's edge and run in small groups of twos or threes."
That describes them perfectly. They allowed us to come within a couple of metres from where they were feeding, and even then, ran towards us. The waves were smallish, not quite enough to swamp the birds, so they didn't retreat, but let the water wash over them even as they probed for food.

The guide also mentions the stripe on their wings, seen in flight.

The book mentions a white stripe: I see the dark edge of it on a mostly white bird.
What Laurie saw: among all those happy, peeping, grey birds, there were three different ones, blending in, acting just like the others.

Just a bit longer and thinner, and a definite brown, with a brown collar. Dark brown legs and bill.

And the bill is longer than the sanderlings', and just slightly curved downward.
As far as I can tell, they're dunlins, separated from their usual hundreds-strong flock. (I could easily, easily, be wrong.*) We don't see dunlins this close, normally; one step too close (and that's 'way back where we have to squint to see them), and the whole shebang lifts itself up, does a rapid series of aerial acrobatics, and settles far off in the distance. These three have taken on the calmer habits of their new companions.

*I could be wrong on the sanderlings, too; peeps in general confuse me.


  1. We have masses of Dunlins near where we live. They swarm on the wet sand (quite disconcerting in their numbers) left by the outgoing tide. I've only seen them from a distance though.

    Thank you so much for including my sea-squirt post ( http://looseandleafy.blogspot.com/2010/11/floating-in-history.html )in your circus.


  2. I think you're right about the sanderlings (and no doubt the dunlins, too). Either way, they're just adorable, and those are great shots of them with their heads bent and their little feet lifting from the sand.

  3. Dunlins for sure - nice bird, I posted my own last month, though we don't get many here in Powell River either.


  4. I feel compelled to share this observation from Douglas Adams ("So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish")

    "There were little sandpipers running along the margin of the shore which seemed to have this problem, they needed to find their food in the sand which a wave had just washed over, but they couldn't bear to get their feet wet. To deal with this problem they ran with an odd kind of movement as if they'd been constructed by somebody very clever in Switzerland."

  5. they are so incredibly cute, thanks for sharing.

  6. Nice shots of the Sanderlings and the Dunlin Susannah. They are such fun to watch. You got a great shot of them in flight as well, showing off those striped wings.


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