Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A Nest in the Leaves

This bird is called a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), a species of small wader. Amazingly, it is one of many waders that breed in the Northern Hemisphere, then migrate all the way to Australia when temperatures turn cold for the winter. I've occasionally seen these birds in ones and twos along rivers and small inlets of south-west Western Australia, and was pleased to get my first photo (above) of this species in February this year. This was something... but seeing as they don't nest 'at home', I never thought I'd get to see their eggs.

Today during another exploratory walk along the River Don in Aberdeen, I was plodding through a picturesque forest scene about 20m from the water's edge, when a small wader appeared, did a 'broken wing' display, then quickly flew down to the water. The short viewing it had allowed me was enough to identify it as a Common Sandpiper. I hunted around for a few minutes, thinking its effort to distract me must have been put on because of small chicks nearby. I had no luck and carried on upstream, but decided it was worth one more look on my way back. This time I saw the bird again, and managed to glimpse it just as it stood up from among the leaf litter. THERE was the nest! Four brilliantly coloured eggs, with speckled markings serving as the perfect camouflage, were hidden among a bed of leaf litter, in a shallow scrape that barely qualified as a nest.

This was an especially exciting find - the bird and its eggs photographed within a 6-month period at opposite ends of the earth! It's hard to believe that before the end of the year, the young sandpipers that hatch from these eggs will rapidly grow feathers, learn to fly, and travel all the way to Australia. And back again. Nature sure is wonderful.

The sandpiper eggs are nestled in a shallow scrape among the leaf litter.

The barely visible nest is marked here with a lens cap - you can just see the 4 eggs above it.


  1. Great find Simon. When I was a boy, I only ever found one Sandpiper nest - in quite different terrain to this nest. Brought back some great memories reading this on your blog. As you say, it is hard to comprehend the travels of these small birds.

    1. Thanks for sharing David! I'm really pleased this took you back to childhood - what did the nest site look like that you found? Wader nests can be so tricky to spot, our raptors are easy in comparison!