Sep 06 2010
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)