Chasing the waves

Sanderling (Calidris alba).

Sanderlings are master predictors of the motions of the Ocean’s waves. As the waves go back and forth, the sanderlings find a perfect moment to begin their sprint run, dig some sand dwellers, and safely run away. For such a tiny body, they are master sprinters.

Their beak is about the size of their head, a very practical feature to sieve through the moving beach sand.

Seeing them in action is quite remarkable. Tens of individuals run side-by-side, almost imitating the wave itself. Their dance is very synchronized with the Ocean’s rhythm.

As the waves recede, they can easily spot sand crabs buried underneath the sand.

The sanderlings of the Far Rockaway feed predominately on the sand dwellers, but I am sure they would not refuse any other crustaceans or mollusks.

Their beak lets them effectively remove the soft parts of the sand dwellers, leaving behind the chitin body of the tiny sand crabs.

Lucky for the bird and unlucky for the crab, sand crabs do not have claws, making them an easy target.

They would grab the soft insides of the crab, and vigorously shake it out of its shell.

One of the prominent feature of the sanderling breeding adults is the rusty back plumage on their neck, back and head, and black legs and beak.

Non-breeding adults are pale gray, but in the middle of August those are hard to find.

Their main breeding areas are located above the Arctic Circle, quite surprising location for such small birds.

As the Sun began to set, they began to gather in large groups and started napping. They buried their heard in their back feathers, making me cringe a little thinking about the flexibility of their necks.

As they were preparing for the night, you could spot multiple birds looking in my direction from underneath their wings, making sure I am not there to chase them away. They were always ready to run, even half asleep.

Birds standing on one leg are normally resting or sleeping. This is a very vulnerable position to be in.

Thus, the stares continues as long as I was in their vicinity.

Even a seagull tired to blend in, somewhat unsuccessfully.

Sanderlings are treated by raising global temperatures. According to estimates, an increase of 3 degrees in the global temperature, would eradicate 97% of their range.

As more and more of them began to group together and began to sleep, I knew it was a sign for me to go. I do not like to intrude, it was their time to rest and my time to get some dinner.


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