Our Willets have returned

Willet foraging in the Gulf of Mexico on Egmont Key National Wildlife RefugeWillet foraging in the Gulf of Mexico on Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 300mm, natural light

Yesterday for the first time this season I saw and heard Willets on Antelope Island State Park. Their pill-will-willet calls will soon resonate all along the causeway, the shore of the island and higher into the Sagebrush and grasses.

When the Willets wintered in Florida I would see them foraging in the Gulf of Mexico, tidal lagoons and Spartina marshes. The Willet above was photographed on Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge which is a spoil island a ferry ride away from Fort De Soto County Park. In 2009 there was a pair of eastern Willets that successfully nested and raised young at Fort De Soto and I believe that was the first time it had been recorded in that location. I saw the young Willets once but they were hidden within the marsh.

Willet on the rocks of Antelope Island State ParkWillet on the rocks of Antelope Island State Park – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The Willets here in Utah breed and nest in the grasslands near ponds or water or close to sagebrush. In the spring the Willets perch high on the sagebrush or rocks and call. And call. And call. I photographed this Willet on the dark rocks near the turn off to Frary Peak Trail a few years ago and although the bird is small in the frame I have always enjoyed this image because it shows the habitat where I find Willets in Utah and I also like the raised wings.

The Willets I saw yesterday were too far away to be photographed but I know I will have them in my viewfinder soon.


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