Plump, energetic waders, often spotted on long sandy beaches, wading through the receding tide. That’s not a description of me walking the dogs on a Sunday afternoon, but of these wonderful birds.
There were several of them at the waters edge as I walked along with the dogs late Saturday afternoon. Around five o’clock at this time of year is an ideal time to visit Crosby beach, barely six miles from where I live – for most of the day crowds have gone, the ice cream van has packed up, and the beach is left for lovers, runners, nature lovers and solitary dog (and horse) walkers.
As we approached the waters edge I noticed groups of these small wading birds. I tried to get a couple of shots without disturbing them but the noisy Max had found a stick and was letting me know about it in the best way he knew.
Beyond the obvious I know nothing about birds (well, not quite nothing, I can tell the difference between a robin and an ostrich, for example – so let’s say next to nothing) So, with the help of friends on Twitter I can confirm that these birds are Sanderlings. Not a native bird, but a winter visitor, so I guess they shall be moving on shortly back to the Arctic.
The tide was receding and leaving much in it’s wake, standing pools, ridges and ripples in the sand, driftwood for Max to find, shells, cuttlefish, seaweed and an occasional starfish.
And yes, I know they aren’t fish, possessing neither gills, fins nor scales, but it is in fact an Echinoderm. It has no blood and digests its food by extending its stomach through its mouth, engulfing its prey and retracting its stomach back through it mouth to digest the food. Neither of the dogs seemed interested in the starfish – it didn’t smell rotten enough for Max to want to roll in it.
Heidi was struggling to get along on the sand and stumbled a bit and was much more secure when we reached the solid path of the promenade above the beach. From there we saw that Max and Heidi weren’t the only Shetlands about, for there on the beach was a young woman exercising her long-limbed Shetland on a leash. Rather thin and lanky, with strange fur that looked more like a mane from a distance, but on closer inspection it turned out that it was a mane and the animal at the end of the leash was a Shetland Pony. Or at least that’s what it looked like from where we stood. As the owner was running off in the opposite direction from the way we were headed, I didn’t get the chance to find out precisely whether this was a Shetland pony or some other type of miniature horse. It seemed to lack the bulk that ponies have.
One final shot of the beach before heading back to the car.