Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lots of Willets!

I just had a feeling there would be Willets at Nine Springs yesterday. The pattern for their arrival has been late April, overcast skies with cold and windy weather. No sooner had Jesse Peterson and I arrived at the trail entrance to the settling ponds when we heard their distinct calls.

Though I wasn't completely surprised, I wasn't expecting to see a flock of 38 of them - the most I've ever seen at one time. Just when I thought this was impressive, when I got home I read about a flock of 67 Willets spotted in Waukegan, Illinois on IBET from earlier in the morning. Apparently, this flock may be the largest Illinois spring concentration on record.

Willet Range Map

Here's a mosaic I tried to stitch together from 4 digiscoped images of the line of Willets. (Note: several of the birds were off in the periphery doing their own thing):

(click on image for larger version)

Link: All about the Willet from Cornell's All About Birds

Other shorebirds at Nine Springs included:

Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe

Prior to our Nine Springs stop, Jesse and I found 8 warbler species at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. It was a classic mixed-flock of warblers, vireos and other neotropical songbirds:

Northern Parula
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Least Flycatcher
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Gray Catbird

Today is extremely windy and rainy, but the winds are predicted to remain coming from the south for the next several days. Hopefully there will be a break or two in the bad weather to get some good birding in. However, some of the most impressive warbler fall-outs I've ever seen have been in particularly nasty weather conditions.

Willet images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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