I never know what I’m going to find when I head out on a hike. Even when I’m visiting the same location month after month. All I can do is try to put myself in the right place at the right time, and maybe I’ll have a memorable encounter. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty lucky. I was just a hundred yards from the parking lot when I discovered a hungry flock of Sanderling on Drakes beach at Point Reyes National Seashore.
The sun was just about to rise over Inverness Ridge. Halfway to the shore I could hear a high-pitch murmuring sound. As I peered over the high tide line, hundreds of Sanderling emerged. They were dashing up and down the beach in unison, hammering their beaks into the sand for food. I scrambled through my camera bag to capture the rhythm of their dance in the predawn light. The plump little birds weren’t distracted by presence, a few feet from their arcing runway, so I planted my tripod and followed them up and down the beach.
The video was pieced together from about 20 minutes of footage. I struggled to maintain focus in the low light, but thankfully had enough to edit. My only big disappointment was sound. The wind noise I recorded was awful, but I managed to tone it down in post production and layer in some supporting audio.
I recommend watching the video a few times. While the flock often moves as a single unit, which your mind wants to follow, pick out a few of the individual birds. There’s some beautiful, quirky, and funny behaviors, from bathing to bickering over morsels.