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Purple Sandpiper

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An occasional winter vistor to rocky shores in Dorset.


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Purple Sandpiper: a purple patch

Post date: Saturday, 18 October, 2014 - 00:00

"There is something moving in amongst the rocks and seaweed; there it is, look; what is it? It is so well hidden".

One of the real reasons we get involved in nature watching is because there is always the chance of something new, something unusual, something special. Maybe its the old hunter/gatherer thing and when I am out for a walk I am always hoping for that something extra, especially if there is going to be chance of a photo. So it was one cold December day, we were walking along Studland Beach towards Poole. It was low tide and at the point where the line of the beach turns toward the harbour there is a long line of rocks stretching out to sea and I just caught a glimpse of something moving and after a little 'chase' there they were, five purple sandpipers (Calidris maritima). Not a common bird by any means but they are regular visitors to Dorset shores in winter and I have seen small parties in amongst the rocks right down on point of Portland Bill.

In summer these birds nest on the hillsides in the Arctic tundra of Iceland and northern Scandinavia but most winters a dozen or so end up here on our coast; keep an eye open for them on our rocky coastal places.


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

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Purple Sandpiper
Scientific Name Calidris maritima
Status Local
Interest Level
Species Family Sandpipers
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Rocky cliffs and shores
Look for Well camouflaged waders in amongst rocks at the coast
Additional Identification Notes
  • Not common but can be seen in small numbers in suitable habitat every winter
  • They are quite at home on exposed rocks by the sea and seem untroubled by incoming waves
  • Quite confiding, they are easy to watch as they tend not to fly off at the first sign of a person approaching