Saturday, February 21, 2015

Wee-will Willet

It has been a while since I wrote anything and even since I spent much time with my photographs. But two annual events, the Virginia Wildlife Photography Contest and the Suffolk Photography Show, with deadlines around this time have made me spend some time reviewing my shots. And while I'm not sure there are many stellar art images in there, there are definitely some interesting stories buried in those images. So I am going to go back and revisit some of those. Here's the first.

The Willet is one of my favorite shorebirds. Maybe because it combines  a set of rather distinct field marks and frequent sightings along the Mid-Atlantic coast. These characteristics led it to be one of the first shorebirds I could reliably identify and was a common sighting on those early trips to beaches. What they lack is showiness, like the well-dressed Oystercathers or the insistent chatter of Killdeers, they make up for with familiarity. They also seem to be at least accepting, if not happy, of sharing the beach with humans. I can count on Willets being seen not just in protected habitat but right in front of the resort hotels in the morning.
This past fall my wife and I made our annual trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a group of friends. We rent a house right on the beach during the shoulder season. The houses are packed pretty close together and even in the shoulder season there are plenty of people walking the beach; right alongside the Willets. This particular one was right outside our house and hungry. During only about 8 minutes I saw it twice capture a little nugget of yumminess. Below you can see a sequence where the Willet grabs something from the sand, walks around with it and then eventually eats it (notice the lump in its throat in the last one).

And finally, this is one of my favorite Willet photos. It is from a couple of years ago, again at the Outer Banks, right at sunset.

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