Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Sanderlings


Flock of Sanderlings (Calidris alba), Ocean Beach, San Francisco: photo by Mila Zinkova, 16 November 2010

along the grey
white foam line of the bay

the sanderlings ran
up and down the beach
with the ebb and flow of the tide

the sand spit at Ocean View ..

a bit
further back each springtime

dashing about in the waves

I walked down to the waterside
with the darkness of the boat
over my head

Maytime sleepless this curious
cold season
the sanderlings already
gone away

Sanderlings (Calidris alba): photo by David Stang, 19 December 2006

Sanderling (Calidris alba), Monterey Bay Aquarium: photo by Fastily 30 March 2009

Sanderlings (Calidris alba), running with the ebb and flow of waves while feeding, northern mouth of Willapa Bay, near Cape Showalter, Washington: photo by Waterguy, 19 November 2005




So that's what they are, those sanderlings, winter birds "gone away" now that it's May (though it still feels and looks like winter out there). The kingfishers are gone too, from their perched on telephone wire along the lagoon, disappeared 3 weeks ago or so -- Johnny and I would look for them every morning when I drove him to school over at the Stinson 'campus' (and would see them, sometimes just one, sometimes two or three, and once in a great while one diving into the lagoon). . . .


sunlit edge of cloud against still black
ridge, blue jay landing on redwood fence
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

surface element in brackets,
with respect to could

cannot be maintained, plane
circle, circumference

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

TC said...


They stop in here, briefly, on their way south in late fall and then again on their way north in the spring.

In California, spring passage occurs from late April to mid-May; almost all the sanderlings are gone by late May.

But how in the world would any sanderling or for that matter any human possibly imagine it is late May, with this January weather?



Good question ("how . . . would any sanderling . . . imagine it is late May, with this January weather?) -- howling winds out there, rain cloud in front of the ridge, back door blown open last night, 87 percent humidity (and 58 degrees) in the 'living room'). . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed green black pine branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

all but invisible, physical
as it relates to what

has become thinkable, thing
that is flat, surface

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...


Grey clouds massing and driving onshore this morning once again, the "seasons" rearraanged, as one might think --

as it relates to what

has become thinkable

-- still a few small birds sing as if unfazed by storm and wind. A. opines this happy sounding babbling 'speech' is their attending to their babies.

She also reports crows walking about scavenging after the downpours in the freeway feeder...

Anonymous said...

I love this and it summons so many similar memories of watching birds similar to these at times when I've had the beach almost to myself (probably what the birds were thinking before I arrived). Soon it will be hot (I'm fairly certain of that, although it's crazy cold today) and I won't see anything like this for a while, but I wish I were at the beach always. Our mornings, which are quite different during the school year, take us daily past a large and mysterious herd of black cows. They're mysterious because although we've seen them in pastures on both sides of the road, when you go by they're always all together on one side in the same pasture. We cannot figure out how they can possibly cross the road and no one else seems to know either.

TC said...


After approximately thirty-six hours of continuous cold rain and lashing winds in mid-May, any sanderling might be forgiven for asking migratory directions. But of course the inner auto-pilot of a migrating bird is always going to be stronger than any temptation to be influenced by what is hopefully nothing more than a temporary freak of the weather.



Tell A the quails are out walking around on the bricks too, also tending (or about to tend) their babies under the rose bush. . . .