On first appearance, there doesn’t seem to be anything striking about a Willet other than the fact that it’s almost twice as tall as the plovers and sandpipers it often migrates with.  

It’s certainly not as spectacular as the nearly same-sized Marbled Godwit, but when it opens its wings a remarkable transformation takes place.

For me, the hardest part of photographing Willets is resisting the temptation to encourage them to fly away in hopes of getting a better shot.  

I Prefer Cooperation

Returning from Bodega Head, I noticed a small flock of White Pelicans fishing in a small pool along the shore.  Unlike Brown Pelicans who dive for food, White Pelicans fish in shallower water and work together to herd fish into the center of the flock.

More often than not, the result seems to be that most of the pelicans end up catching a fish. 

After all, pelicans have been around a long, long time and it seems unlikely they would have survived that long if socialistic strategies like this didn’t benefit the whole flock.

While I was photographing the pelicans I heard a ruckus behind them and looked up to see several gulls chasing a gull that had found a small crab.

Considering how small the crab was, I was amazed that this went on for several minutes

Apparently competition, rather than cooperation, is predominant in gull society.  As a survival technique for a species it must be as effective as cooperation since there are even more gulls than pelicans — at least here in the Pacific Northwest — but I’ll have to admit that it somehow seems less appealing to me. 

More from Doran

I was so busy getting close-ups of the Marbled Godwits that I almost overlooked this Whimbrel.

As I later discovered, there was actually two Whimbrels

that were feeding quite aways apart.

About a half-mile further down the beach we saw this Willet with a shell that looked like a clam, 

but it seemed unable to crack the puzzle of how to eat it and gave up.

These Surf Scoters, on the other hand,  have huge beaks they use to eat shellfish.

I’ll have to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever seen Surf Scoters surfing. I’ve always seen them feeding on the piers in the Puget Sound or floating casually far off from shore.  I finally know how they must have gotten their name.

When we walked as far down the beach as we were going, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the ledge above us.  

I wonder if he saw more than I did.

Birding Doran Regional Park

The day after we visited Spring Lake we drove to Bodega Bay and stopped at Doran Regional Park, a very busy beach though we got there early enough to beat the crowds.  

As we walked towards the beach we were greeted by this little guy and his friends.  I could immediately tell they were plovers, but I wasn’t sure what kind.  Judging purely from the size I speculated they were Semi-palmated Plovers, but when none of them had the strong, dark stripe around there neck and I looked at them on the computer I knew they weren’t.  

I was shocked when I finally realized they were Snowy Plovers

an endangered species that nests on the open beach.  

This one

even looked like it could be looking for a nesting site.  No wonder they are endangered if they can’t find a beach with a lot fewer people than Doran Park.  

It’s clear that the birds have had no choice but to learn to coexist with large numbers of people on this part of the coast.  The second species we saw was this beautiful Marbled Godwit.

When I see flocks of these in Westport they stay on the outside of the Marina and will fly away whenever anyone approaches.  This one continued to feed the whole time I watched it

until it caught this impressive (?) worm (?).