A small shore bird common, in fact often abundant, on passage and in winter, it breeds in the High Arctic. So far to the north, that only very few ornithologists have ever seen it on its nesting site. It was not until the 1860s that the first nest and eggs were found, in the Canadian Arctic of Mackenzie. It nests in Arctic Canada, Greenland, Spitzbergen and across Siberia. The only place in Europe that it nests is in Svalbard.
Sanderlings are characteristic of sandy beaches, running back and forth, with the ebb and flow of the tide, like so many little clockwork toys. They are a delicate grey above, with contrasting pure white underparts, and jet black bill and feet. However, in the breeding plumage, more rarely encountered in Britain, the head and upper parts become a mixture of orange-buff, cinnamon and brown.
Dr David Bannerman, author of the mighty 12 volume Birds of the British Isles, wrote of this bird ” I confess to its being my favorite small wader and one which I have been fortunate to meet in many lands.” He described it as being “… so much more lively in its movements on the ground than the dunlin or the ringed plover. To watch it running along the tide-line following the receding waves and darting back as the next ripples nearly overtake it, is one of the most delightful sights imaginable.”