Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sanderlings, Myrtle Beach, SC

The surf pounds down hard onto North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It seems an unsuitable habitat for such a little bird as the Sanderling. Yet, this ever changing zone at the water's edge is his home.

The Sanderling has an uncanny sense of time and place. In between the dangerous swirling surf and a bone dry beach lies a buried treasure of food.

With a diet of small invertebrates, crustaceans and horseshoe crab eggs, the Sanderling finds food as each wave retreats.

Easy might think. However, to do this safely one must avoid being pounded by the next incoming wave.

Walking smartly in front of each frothy wave, the Sanderlings entertain and amuse the human beach walkers.

A quick turn around reveals tiny organisms the wave exposed.

It's only a matter of seconds to score this meal or it's gone.

The sun rising from the Atlantic highlights today's bounty. These long distance flyers are just winter residents in Myrtle Beach. They breed and raise their young near the Arctic Circle in far northern Canada. After raising their one brood a year, the monogamous Sanderlings depart to the world's coastlines to continue their wave dodging lifestyle.

Human presence doesn't seem to bother the Sanderlings, although populations are declining. A rough estimate of 700,000 Sanderlings worldwide is the best guess available.

Three Sanderlings search for food a few feet from fishermen. That's unusual behavior in the normally skittish bird communities, but the Sanderlings tolerate people. Sharing may be part of their nature. Sharing and protecting a place we all covet may be a good example for us, the waterline.

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds