Sep 06 2010

Pill-will-willet

Published by at 7:20 am under Travel,Water and Shore


It may be too late in the season to see a willet at the Bay of Fundy but I will try.

Today I’m beginning an intensive three days of watching shorebirds – and I mean watching.  My plan is to follow them no matter what they do:  feeding, walking, flying, flocking, calling.  I won’t have an expert with me but I hope that by the end of three days I’ll be better at identifying them by their general look and behavior — and that’s bound to help.

One such bird that I’ve almost mastered is the willet.  Many’s the time I’ve carefully stalked these plain, long-legged, long-billed birds as they feed at the shore.  I try hard not to spook them while I figure out their field marks. 

I’ve been known to watch them with their wings closed for as much as half an hour.  Then I’m saved when a predator flies over.  The willets open their wings to escape and Wow!  No doubt about them!  Look at that distinctive wing pattern! 

I should learn from this that some birds can only be identified when they fly. 

Theoretically I could learn to recognize willets by their voices but that requires more time than I have this week, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever hear their territorial song in September.  It’s the sound that gave them their name:  “Pill-will-willet.”

(photo by Steve Gosser)

One response so far

One Response to “Pill-will-willet”

  1. barbaraon 06 Sep 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Beautiful Photo! Patience is a virtue when it comes to watching birds for identification. Or for that fact any living thing in nature. Being an amateur naturalist, I still have not developed the skill you have accomplished in observing detail. Enjoyed your post.

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