Tag Archives: Sanderling

Beach bird walk

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Bathtub Reef Beach on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida last Sunday around noon. Red flag advises against swimming but does not forbid it (that would be two red flags).

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I walked south to the inlet and back, 2.2 miles, for an hour and 45 minutes, watching and counting birds.

Here’s my eBird checklist: Oct 7 Bathtub Beach.

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When little shorebirds are holding still, it’s hard to see them.

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These people walked right past and didn’t seem to notice the plovers.

Fancy houses along the beach here. It’s the gated community of Sailfish Point, right at the southern tip of the island. Can’t get in unless you live there – although you can walk along the beach.

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These are Semipalmated Plovers, a new bird for me.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

A small dark shorebird with a single band across its chest, the Semipalmated Plover is the most common plover seen on migration in most areas.

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Audubon

The most common of the small plovers on migration through most areas. On its breeding grounds in the north, it avoids the tundra habitat chosen by most shorebirds, nesting instead on gravel bars along rivers or ponds. In such surroundings, its seemingly bold pattern actually helps to make the plover inconspicuous, by breaking up its outline against the varied background. The name “semipalmated” refers to partial webbing between the bird’s toes.

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Willets flew in for a short visit.

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A Ruddy Turnstone was digging into a sea turtle shell.

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A sleepy solitary Sanderling was near the turnstone and small flock of plovers.

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The turnstone was very busy.

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I watched it rushing here and there, pushing away bits of sargassum , sticks and shells to see what was underneath.

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“It’s turning ‘stones’ like a turnstone!” I thought.

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Audubon

Best known for habit of inserting bill under stones, shells, etc., and flipping them over to find food underneath. Several birds may work together to overturn a larger object. Often probes under seaweed or debris.

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Gusty east wind and strong surf. Brown Pelican can handle it.

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Brown Pelicans have a wingspan between 6.5 and 7.5 feet. They are the smallest of the eight pelican species, but still very big birds.

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Getting closer to the inlet, I came upon a bird I’ve only seen once before: a Black-bellied Plover.

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It relocated as I walked past on the high part of the beach, but didn’t go far. Nice view of wings and tail.

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Audubon

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.

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Most migrate along coast or over sea, but numbers stop over regularly at some inland sites. Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia.

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The other time I spotted these birds was at Ragged Neck in in New Hampshire in Nov. 2016, along with some Snow Buntings.

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An attractive, large shorebird.

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A couple of guys on jetskis were playing in the waves near the inlet.

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Sanderling in motion!

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I see these sandpipers a lot in non-breeding season.

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You don’t see too many fishermen at this spot since they have to walk a ways to get here.

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Looking across the St. Lucie  inlet from Hutchinson Island to Jupiter Island. And Sanderlings running along the sand.

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Little Blue Herons… an adult on the rocks and an immature in the water. Yes, the young ones are white not “blue”.

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Little Blue strut.

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Sanderlings at rest.

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View west from the inlet. The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon connect to the Atlantic Ocean here.

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Sandwich Tern, a tern I know thanks to the yellow bill tip!

Vitamin blue

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I like where I live!

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In the 8 o’clock hour, this morning at the beach, I wasn’t the only one appreciating.

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Sanderlings are back in town!

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They nest in the tundra of the High Arctic and spend the rest of the year all over the place, mostly on sandy beaches, from Nova Scotia to South America. I see plenty around here in fall and winter.

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Hard-packed sand here today, good for walking and running, with lots of whole shells washed up too.

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(Taller buildings start at the border of the next county north, St. Lucie.)

Birds and fisherfolk are excited about the run of the baitfish. I confirmed at the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop yesterday that they ARE anchovies, also known around here as glass minnows.

Glass minnows and silversides are anchovies. Yes, the same anchovy that you eat on pizza or in Caesar dressing. The bay anchovy is Anchoa mitchilli for those of you that hope to catch me in my identification mistakes. They range from Maine through the Gulf of Mexico in great abundance. They are easily recognized by the fact that they are transparent with a broad silver stripe down the side and are seldom over three inches long.

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Sanderlings feeding.

According to Wikipedia (citing the Oxford English Dictionary), the name derives from Old English sand-yrðling, “sand-ploughman.”

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Pelicans passing by, with some typically awesome summer clouds.

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It is very good for you to stare out at blue ocean and sky, did you know?

The color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace,” says Shuster. “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”

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Just don’t look directly at the sun. Oops.

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Birds and shells galore. And the typical beachfront condos of the Martin County part of the Treasure Coast. Our county has a building height restriction of four stories.

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Radar had a good workout.

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I call that ear position “Naughty Rabbit.”

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Just offshore, the Sunday morning tarpon seekers.

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Water temps today are 81 degrees F. The air was a couple of degrees warmer than the ocean this morning, but going up to 90 today (as usual).

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Surf-forecast.com

Stuart Public Beach sea temperatures peak in the range 29 to 30°C (84 to 86°F) on around the 10th of August and are at their lowest on about the 11th of February, in the range 21 to 24°C (70 to 75°F).

Actual sea surface water temperatures close to shore at Stuart Public Beach can vary by several degrees compared with these open water averages. This is especially true after heavy rain, close to river mouths or after long periods of strong offshore winds. Offshore winds cause colder deep water to replace surface water that has been warmed by the sun.

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Sanderlings feed by running down the beach after a receding wave to pick up stranded invertebrates or probe for prey hidden in the wet sand. Diet includes small crabs, amphipods and other small crustaceans, polychaete worms, mollusks, and horseshoe crab eggs.

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My husband said he noticed a big hatch-out of tiny, new mole crabs (aka sand crabs, sand fleas) the other day. I wonder if that food resource is one reason the Sanderlings are here now.

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In winter I don’t always see this many together. I’ll bet these Sanderlings are in the middle of a bigger trip south.

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The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world. The Ruddy Turnstone and the Whimbrel are the only other shorebirds that rival its worldwide distribution.

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“You care about birds and blue horizon brain waves, but I only care about the ball. C’mon, throw it.”

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Lonely beach toy.

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A few Ruddy Turnstones with the Sanderling flock.

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The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. – Henry Beston

Shorebirds returning

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Ruddy Turnstone rests out of the wind in a footprint.

A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone’s orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia).

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Willet on the rocks.

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The willet (Tringa semipalmata), formerly in the monotypic genus Catoptrophorus as Catoptrophorus semipalmatusis a large shorebird in the sandpiper family. It is a relatively large and robust member sandpiper, and is the largest of the species called “shanks” in the genus Tringa.

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These rocks are part of the Anastasia geological formation. They are quite striking near the House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island.

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Also taking a break from feeding, a Sanderling.

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The beach, looking north. We stopped by yesterday in the late afternoon to see if there were any more falcons coming through. There were not.

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But this little Sanderling landed right next to me and let me take a few photos. Pretty plumage. Sweet little birds.

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The Sanderling’s black legs blur as it runs back and forth on the beach, picking or probing for tiny prey in the wet sand left by receding waves. Sanderlings are medium-sized “peep” sandpipers recognizable by their pale nonbreeding plumage, black legs and bill, and obsessive wave-chasing habits. Learn this species, and you’ll have an aid in sorting out less common shorebirds. These extreme long-distance migrants breed only on High Arctic tundra, but during the winter they live on most of the sandy beaches of the world.

Welcome back to your “winter” home!

Shorebirds, two kinds

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Two Willets walking on a beach, St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.

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Sanderlings too.

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Audubon Field Guide Sanderling

This is the little sandpiper that runs up and down the beach “like a clockwork toy,” chasing the receding waves. Plumper and more active than most small sandpipers, and quite pale at most times of year, a good match for dry sand. Sanderlings nest only in limited areas of the far north, but during migration and winter they are familiar sights on coastal beaches all over the world.

Ruddy turnstone Sunday

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Ruddy Turnstone at Bob Graham Beach last Sunday.

We were parked in our new Tommy Bahama “Relax” backpack beach chairs with built in cooling pockets and cup holders for Sunday brunch beverages and a flock of these little guys were coming quite close, hoping for crumbs from our fresh, hot Cuban sandwiches from the nearby Island Pantry.

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A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone‘s orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia). They use their stout, slightly upturned bill to flip debris on the beach to uncover insects and small crustaceans.

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Chubster.

For shorebirds like the Ruddy Turnstone, getting fat is critical. Unlike humans, which use carbohydrates as fuel, birds use fat to power their migrations. Birds that don’t get fat enough before they depart often leave later and some may not even make it to the breeding or wintering grounds.

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It was a very windy day. Some fishermen battled the elements.

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There were some Sanderlings around too, as there often are with Ruddy Turnstones.

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A couple of kite surfers were fun to watch just off the beach.

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Wind and water.

Shorebirds galore

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Willet in the surf at Bathtub Beach last Thursday.

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Willets are often seen alone. They walk deliberately, pausing to probe for crabs, worms and other prey in sand and mudflats, or to pick at insects and mollusks.

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Willets and other shorebirds were once a popular food. In his famous Birds of America accounts, John James Audubon wrote that Willet eggs were tasty and the young “grow rapidly, become fat and juicy, and by the time they are able to fly, afford excellent food.” By the early 1900s, Willets had almost vanished north of Virginia. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 banned market hunting and marked the start of the Willet’s comeback.

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A couple of Willets plus a Sanderling for size.

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Ruddy turnstones. I see a lot of these but have not yet blogged them.

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The ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. The scientific name is from Latin. The genus name arenaria derives from arenarius, “inhabiting sand, from arena, “sand”. The specific interpres means “messenger”; when visiting Gotland in 1741, Linnaeus thought that the Swedish word Tolk “interpreter” applied to this species, but in the local dialect the word means “legs” and is used for the redshank.

‘Tis the season for sanderlings

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Sanderling corps de ballet rehearses for The Crabcracker.

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Lots of sanderlings just south of Jensen Beach the other day.

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Getting organized.

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Here we go.

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Wikipedia:

The sanderling (Calidris alba) is a small wading bird. The name derives from Old English sand-yrðling, “sand-ploughman”. The genus name is from Ancient Greek kalidris or skalidris, a term used by Aristotle for some grey-coloured waterside birds. The specific alba is Latin for “white”.

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Sanderlings feed on invertebrate prey buried in the sand in the upper intertidal zone. In North America, this diet largely consists of the isopods Excirolana linguifrons, Excirolana kincaidii, and the mole crab, Emerita analoga. When the tide is out, these crustaceans live in burrows some way beneath the surface. When the tide comes in, they move into the upper layers of sand and feed on the plankton and detritus that washes over them with each wave. They then burrow rapidly down again as the water retreats. They leave no marks on the surface, so the sanderlings hunt for them by plunging their beaks into the sand at random, consuming whatever they find. Their bills can penetrate only 2 or 3 cm (0.79 or 1.18 in) and as the water swirls around and retreats, the sand is softer; this makes it easier for the birds’ beaks to penetrate further.

Sanderling walk

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What bird is this?

I parked at Santa Lucea Beach on Hutchinson Island and walked south around 1 p.m. yesterday.

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A sandpiper doing that sandpiper thing.

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Sandpiper sees seashell down by the seashore.

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This was a Sanderling, I discovered.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Sanderling:

The Sanderling’s black legs blur as it runs back and forth on the beach, picking or probing for tiny prey in the wet sand left by receding waves. Sanderlings are medium-sized “peep” sandpipers recognizable by their pale nonbreeding plumage, black legs and bill, and obsessive wave-chasing habits.

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Hard not to sift and sort through all these pretty shells, but I didn’t want to fill my pockets and I did want to find some birds.

The strange rocks along this Treasure Coast beach are part of the Anastasia Formation. It is “is composed of interbedded sands and coquina limestones. The formation is an orangish brown, soft to moderately hard, coquina of whole and fragmented mollusk shells within sand often cemented by sparry calcite.”

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Just out past the breakers, a man in a boat. Not a calm day, but it seems it is often breezy and rough offshore here. Keep going straight east out past that boat and you’d get to the northernmost island in the Bahamas, Walker Cay, about 100 miles out into the Atlantic, I’d guess.

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Dead crab. Pretty colors.

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A Magnificent Frigatebird flew north past me.

A long-winged, fork-tailed bird of tropical oceans, the Magnificent Frigatebird is an agile flier that snatches food off the surface of the ocean and steals food from other birds.

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Coming out of an incomplete swooping dive.

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I saw five or six Sanderlings on my walk, all of them alone.

Audubon Field Guide, Sanderling Diet:

Mostly sand crabs and other invertebrates. Feeds on a wide variety of small creatures on beach, including sand crabs, amphipods, isopods, insects, marine worms, small mollusks; also may eat some carrion. Wintering birds on southern coasts may eat corn chips and other junk food left by people. In spring, may feed heavily on eggs of horseshoe crab. On tundra, feeds mostly on flies and other insects, also some seeds, algae, and leaves.

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Okay, I did pick up the pink one.

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The beach was not a busy place on a cloudy Thursday in December.

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Cornell Lab: “The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world.”

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Sweet solitary Sanderling stands still on Anastasia rock.

A Sanderling is a movie star. Audubon.org: Behind the Scenes of Piper, Pixar’s New Short Film

Sanderlings spend a lot of time in the ocean, scuttling in and out of the water in search of tiny invertebrates buried in the sand. Even downy hatchlings must immediately learn to fend for themselves and feed between unrelenting waves. So the last thing any Sanderling needs is a crippling phobia of the ocean. But such is the lot of the young heroine in Pixar’s newest short, Piper. Directed by Alan Barillaro, the six-minute film preceding Finding Dory concerns the trials of a young chick as she conquers her natural habitat, and greatest fear.

The idea came to Barillaro during his morning jogs in the Bay Area, where he would see hordes of the little speckled birds scampering to feed amidst giant kelp, resembling little wind-up toys. He found this collective feeding frenzy charming, but he couldn’t quite shake his impression that these shorebirds were afraid of, well, the shore.
To create Piper, Barillaro and his entire team entered the Sanderlings’ world. They spent weekends on beaches all over the Bay Area, meeting at 5 a.m. on a dusty road under a bridge in search of the birds. “Half of us were chasing around different beaches and calling each other on cell phones until we found a flock we could get close to,” Barillaro says. “It became this treasure hunt.”