Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yet ANOTHER Super Rare Shorebird

Yet another locally rare shorebird was located recently along the Catawba River, right where Wilkinson Boulevard crosses the river into Belmont. A willet apparently was grounded by the storms late last week and spent a day on the exposed mud just north of the bridge.

Willets are large shorebirds. They are familiar sights as they wade into the surf along our beaches. They are a non-descript gray color until they take flight, revealing the striking black and white wing pattern that makes identification easy, even on distant flying birds.

They are rare in the piedmont though. There are about three records for Mecklenburg County. I tried to find the most recent bird but was unable to get out on the day it was discovered. As happens so often with rare birds during migration, it had moved on by the next day.

Below are two shots of the willet found along the Catawba River where Wilkinson Blvd crosses the river. Note the gray plumage and large size.
Willet by Jeff Lemons

This bird was grounded by heavy rains and unsettled weather. even as these photos were being taken the water was rising, eventually covering up the exposed mud bar where the bird was foraging. 

Willet by Jeff Lemons

In flight the willet is easy to identify. Simply look for the striking black and white wing pattern on the spread wing.

Willet in Flight by Phil Fowler