|Willets alight, photo by Kim Graham
Large numbers of Willets were reported from two separate locations in Ohio, leading one to believe their migration was disrupted by weather conditions. Their colorful wings gave flashes of light to the otherwise gray on gray, birds on weathered board.
The well-known boardwalk at Galena, Ohio juts out into Hoover Reservoir. We have seen many remarkable birds from this location, but nothing to compete with this phenomenal sighting! Gulls lined the far end, while 115 Willets gathered on the midsection of the hand-rail. Once settled in, their plain tones falsely suggest this is an everyday occurrence. Non-birders were hard pressed to understand our excitement.
E- bird's map of Willet sightings in Ohio is most useful. Not only does it show the location of previous sightings, more frequently on the shores of lake Erie, it also marks this boardwalk at Hoover Reservoir. It is the red flag near the center of the state, slightly north-east of the city of Columbus.
|Willet flock, photo by Kim Graham
|Willets in flight, Photo by Kim Graham
|Willet at St. Mary's Fish Hatchery, Sept. '09, photo Cheryl Harner
Their presence in Ohio has been generally noted with sporadic sightings of singles or pairs. Until now, the largest gathering ever noted in Peterjohn's The Birds of Ohio, was 50 in Cleveland in August of 1976.
The 115 Willets that toured Hoover in April 2012 will have birders talking for years.
|Single Willet in flight, Kim Graham
In the past, I have erroneously regarded willets as rather dull birds of gray color. All I have seen heretofore have been foraging on mudflats, and looked rather unspectacular. To experience 115 Willets on a fly-by was both breath-taking, and eye-opening. These birds are as stunning as they are vociferous in flight; the dull gray bird becomes a brilliant striped banner of black and white as it takes to the sky.
Willets are considered a conservation success and their population numbers are climbing. Certainly that is good news we can all relish, but even if their numbers sky-rocket on the breeding grounds, chances are, we'll not see another sighting like this in Ohio, ever again.