June 4th   Leave a comment

The sanderling on Balcomie Beach are now in full summer plumage and really can’t be staying for much longer. It makes me remember when I was in Barrow, Alaska (19 years ago – I know that for sure because my son is 18 and we found out we were expecting him during fieldwork there). I found a couple of sanderling making a nest scrape in the tundra next to the still frozen sea on June 10th. The snow had only thawed a week before. It’s about 3,000 km from Balcomie to the furthest north a sanderling could go to breed (and they do go very far north), for example, the top of Greenland. A sanderling could be there in a 2 day continuous flight, or a few days more with a stop-off in Iceland. Either way, there is plenty of time to be there for the start of breeding. Once there though, the clock is ticking and the chicks only have until the beginning of August to fledge and fly south before the cold weather starts again. But they do have continuous daylight, literally tons of insects and, with a bit of luck, few predators, on their side. And speaking of predators, I remember losing my nerve as I realised I was being distracted watching the sanderling in Barrow by the sea ice – strewn with polar bear sized and shaped icebergs. We retreated further inland and found a cup of coffee in the safety of Barrow town. I didn’t see a polar bear that trip but seeing summer plumage sanderlings makes me think of them.

One of the summer plumage sanderling on Balcomie Beach (JA)

Posted June 4, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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