The Sanderlings of summer on Westray were a joy to get close to. Lying on the beach, keeping still, and watching them was such a great experience. Especially with crashing waves behind them.
The name Sanderling comes from the Old English sand-yrðling, which means ‘sand-ploughman’. They are up and down the tideline as often as any Westray farmer is up and down the surrounding fields.
It’s quite emotional to realise they spend their summer breeding in the Arctic, in a distribution that rings the pole, and then set off for a winter in South America, southern Europe, Africa and Australia. It’s a privilege to see them.
The sandy beaches of Westray are the perfect stopping-off point on their endlessly repeated journey, programmed from generation after generation of survival.
Sanderling are sand-ploughmen in the sands of evolutionary time, with deep furrows across thousands of miles of the Earth over millions of years.
And we are here to experience this brief moment together.