Willets – In Utah and Florida

Willet calling on a RabbitbrushWillet calling on a Rabbitbrush – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 350mm, natural light

Willets (Tringa semipalmata) have returned to Utah, on the causeway to Antelope Island hundreds of them can be seen in the shallow water. They seem to spend some time there fattening up after migration before they get down to the serious business of mating and rearing their young.

In Utah I see Willets in much different habitats than I saw them in Florida, here they stand on rocks, perch precariously on shrubs and forage in grasslands. This Willet was perched on a Rabbitbrush as the breeze made the bird and the bush dance on Antelope Island State Park this week.

Willet in seafoam on the Gulf of MexicoWillet in sea-foam on the Gulf of Mexico – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

In Florida I would see Willets on sandy beaches, foraging in tidal lagoons, in Spartina marshes and in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. This Willet was in sea-foam with gorgeous turquoise water in the background on Fort De Soto’s north beach.

Willet stretching on a rockWillet stretching on a rock – Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Willets do call in Florida but not as frequently as they do here in Utah. This Willet was perched on a rock among the grasses on a hillside on Antelope Island State Park and stretched its wings.

Willet in early morning light at Fort De SotoWillet in early morning light at Fort De Soto – Nikon D200, handheld, 5.6, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I enjoy seeing and photographing Willets where ever I find them, they are beautiful shorebirds.



  1. Julie Brown May 4, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I like the different environments you have provided in this series. Excellently executed, as usual! 🙂

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 5:03 am

      Julie, thanks. Willets do have very different environments during breeding season than nonbreeding season.

  2. Scott May 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Gorgeous images, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 5:00 am

      Thank you Scott, Willets are neat birds.

  3. Tammy Karr May 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Great Willet photos! They are all beautiful, but I especially love the photo with the turquoise background!!

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 4:59 am

      Thanks Tammy, I appreciate your comment!

  4. Ingrid May 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I love Willets, too. They were the first shorebird I learned to recognize because of those vivid wings. It’s so peaceful sitting alongside the Shorebird Nation, isn’t it?

    • Mia McPherson May 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      Ingrid, I love the term “Shorebird Nation”, it made me smile to read it. Yes, it is very peaceful to be in their Nation to watch them, see thier habits and photograph them. As soon as I’d flop down onto the sand, slither through mud or immerse myself in the water near them I could forget all the stress I would feel from life and feel it flow away from me, a very wonderful feeling.

  5. Julie G. May 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Willets are lovely birds. It is so very interesting to see them in the different settings. Your photographs are spectacular! I’ve only seen Willets walking along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline in Florida. Your exceptional images illustrate how getting down low when capturing a shot, really enhances the quality.

    • Mia McPherson May 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      Julie, thanks so much for your comments on these Willet images, even while working the photos up to add to the post I found enjoyment in comparing the different settings I photographed them in.

  6. Carol Mattingly May 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    That first image Mia, OMG. The light is gorgeous in it. I love it. That’s not to say those other images aren’t beautiful, they are. But the lighting is especially soft and lovely in that first. Carol

    • Mia McPherson May 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Thank you Carol, I loved the light in that first image too plus the soft greens and tans of the vegetation.

  7. Laurence Butler May 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    There’s something so calming, so serene about the Willets. It’s lovely how they keep that wonderful wing pattern hidden most of the time, but then all of the sudden they spread them to fly and flash black and white with such brilliance.

    • Mia McPherson May 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Laurence, most of the time I think of Willets as calming & serene to look at but when they are having territorial encounters it can get down right violent plus they can get quite defensive (and loud) if you accidentally get near their nearly invisible chicks. I love it when they flash that black & white wing pattern! Thanks for your comment.

  8. Prairie Birder May 3, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I agree with you that Willets are very neat. Your photos are so beautiful, Mia! They are one of the earliest shorebirds to arrive, but I haven’t seen one yet this year.

    • Mia McPherson May 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Thanks PrairieBirder, I appreciate your comments on my images. Willets arrive here after the Long-billed Curlews and it is such fun to see the two species in the same locations. Hope your Willets arrive very soon.

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