Sanderlings are the sheep of shorelines. And not just any shorelines, mainly ocean beaches and ocean beach mimics like Lake Superior’s sandy Park Point. Like little flocks of sheep, they move down the beach, the birder or photographer or Sunday stroller herding them on. The Sanderlings hustle just ahead of the surging surf, staying mere inches from the waterline. It is amazing how they are able to feed on the run and still stay out of the water.

What are they doing here and what are they eating? Sanderlings nest in the High Arctic of Canada, Greenland, Norway and Arctic Russian islands. In North America they migrate thousands of kilometers down both coasts (and inland to a lesser extent) on their way to wintering grounds. Some find the sandy beaches of Lake Superior a fine substitute for oceanic surf. But they need some kind of surf. The retreating waves gives them access to tiny invertebrates.

The trick to photographing them is to find a flock working their way towards you. Now the uncomfortable part; you need to flop down in the sand bracing the camera on your camera bag (I’ve even stood my binoculars in the sand, resting the 400mm lens between the oculars for a lower perspective…The lower the better in shorebird photography. Getting to eye-level is the goal and that’s not easy with a 5 inch bird! These are my two favorites…It shows a bit of their personality; One is preening its feathers and the other has been surprised by a wave…For a shorebird, they sure don’t like getting wet!

Canon 10D, handheld, Canon 400mm f5.6 with 1.4x converter, f8 at 1/1000, ISO 400

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