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.

Four More from Merced

The few shots I’ve posted on this post and the previous ones don’t do justice to the number of birds we saw at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, but magical places like this remind us what life must have been in these areas before we drained the wetlands and covered the lands in concrete.

I was a little surprised to see Snow Geese this far south, but I would have been disappointed by how far away they were

if I hadn’t known that I would see a lot more at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge that afternoon.

I was much happier with this close-up shot of a Black-Necked Stilt.

I had a hard time catching a shot of the numerous Ground Squirrels 

perhaps because they knew that if they stayed in the same spot too long that they would become dinner for the raptors we kept seeing circling overhead.