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Generally a passage migrant but sometmes over winters here in Dorset



Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Sanderling: waving goodbye

Post date: Saturday, 25 October, 2014 - 00:00

You would expect that any species of bird that is considered to be a wader would be happy in water? Well, not so. It seems the sanderling (Calidris alba) tries to keep its feet dry. If you watch, they like to feed along the edge of the water and they run in and out with the waves. This one got caught in the water becuase of my presence close by!

The sanderling is very much a bird of sandy beaches, although a plover it is never seen on mud flats. They feed on small crustaceans that are found along the waters edge. In Dorset they are primarily seen on passage south from their Arctic breeding grounds but a few certainly spend the winter here and the most likely place to see them is just inside Poole Harbour in Bramble Bush Bay, not far from the car ferry. They are never here in big numbers as most fly much further south than Dorset. They are great travellers and some can go as far south as the Falklands and in to South America.

Although nervous birds they tend not to fly away as you approach unless they really have to, they prefer to run. They are lovely little waders; fun to watch but difficult to get close to to photograph.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Sanderling
Scientific Name Calidris alba
Status Local
Interest Level
Species Family Sandpipers
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Sandy shore
Look for Small waders running up and down the beach to avoid the incoming waves
Additional Identification Notes
  • More often seen in the migration months but occassionally seen in winter too
  • Very much a wader of sandy beaches rather than mud flats
  • Often in small flocks and can be seen running up and down the beach as the waves come in to avoid getting their feet wet