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Generally a passage migrant but sometmes over winters here in Dorset

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

The sanderling (Calidris alba) is a delightful little wader best known for its habit of running up and down sandy beaches as the waves come in seemingly trying not to get its feet wet! Whilst they can be seen in many coastal locations they do have a marked preference for sandy beaches and that is where their name originates from. The sanderling is not that common in Dorset but it could not be considered scarce either; they certainly do not breed here. They are primarily a passage migrant species although some do spend much of the winter here if conditions do not get too severe.

A look at the weekly reports chart shows two peaks for sightings, one in spring and the other in autumn. The spring influx picks up in week 17 at the beginning of May reaching a maximum in week 21 at the beginning of June before falling away and then there is then a gap of about four weeks before the return flow starts which is then well under way by week 30 in July and goes on until week 36 at the beginning of September. After this there are a couple of reports most weeks throughout the autumn and winter although it seems February is almost devoid of them here.

Sanderling can be seen at various points around Poole harbour where the conditions are suitable as well as in Christchurch harbour. They can also be seen at most of the sites along the Fleet but the most reports come from Ferrybridge, partly because this is a well monitored site but also because conditions favour their behaviour and feeding habits.

Apart from Ferrybridge, the best place to see sanderling is probably the beach at Sandbanks or across the Poole harbour entrance on the beach at Shell bay or in Bramblebush bay where they can often be seen near the car ferry ramp. 



Common Name Sanderling
Scientific Name Calidris alba
Species Group Birds Sandpipers
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Look for

Small waders running up and down the beach to avoid the incoming waves

Identification Notes
  • More often seen in the migration months but occassionally seen in winter and summer too
  • Very much a wader of sandy beaches rather than mud flats
  • Often in small flocks and can be seen running up and down the beach as the waves come in to avoid getting their feet wet 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Sandpipers