Tag Archive | willet

Travel Tuesday – Bobolinks, babies and more south of Calgary

Posted by Dan Arndt

While work has kept me rather busy and out of town for the majority of the past 6 weeks, on my brief trips back to Calgary I’ve been making a serious effort to get out and find some local birds. One of the most tantalizing of these birds was a lifer that’s eluded me for a few years in the Calgary region, a Bobolink. Their song is reminiscent of a robot, crossed with a blackbird, and is actually produced by two separate parts of their vocal cords singing entirely different songs. This particular pair of males was found near Priddis.

Pair of Bobolinks Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

Pair of Bobolinks
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

Bobolink Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

Bobolink
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

On one of my trips down to this area, I managed to find some adorable little baby American Coots still being fed by their mothers.

 

American Coot and chick Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

American Coot and chick
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

American Coot and chick Plummer's Road, south of Calgary July 2, 2014

American Coot and chick
Plummer’s Road, south of Calgary
July 2, 2014

On another morning I took a visit to Frank Lake, and found a few different babies of different species, including a baby Willet, baby Ruffed Grouse, immature Western Meadowlarks, and baby Eared Grebes, all staying safe and close to their parents. With the breeding season being so short in this area of the world, one could almost blink and miss the whole thing!

Eared Grebe chick Frank Lake June 27, 2014

Eared Grebe chick
Frank Lake
June 27, 2014

Willet Chick Frank Lake June 27, 2014

Willet Chick
Frank Lake
June 27, 2014

baby Ruffed Grouse south of Turner Valley June 27, 2014

baby Ruffed Grouse
south of Turner Valley
June 27, 2014

baby Western Meadowlark Frank Lake June 27, 2014

baby Western Meadowlark
Frank Lake
June 27, 2014

And last but not least, thanks to a very special friend on the Facebook group Alberta Birds, I was able to find this adorable trio. An adult and two immature Black Terns, northeast of Calgary, just last week. Amazing, huh?

Baby Black Terns NE of Calgary July 15, 2014

Baby Black Terns
NE of Calgary
July 15, 2014

Baby Black Terns and mom NE of Calgary July 15, 2014

Baby Black Terns and mom
NE of Calgary
July 15, 2014

 

Willet (or won’t it)

As colder weather begins to descend upon Calgary, it can be nice to reflect a little bit on some birds that we were familiar with during the summer months.

Many species of birds vary greatly from region to region. The Willet is one of these birds that are highly variable with two distinct subspecies, the eastern semipalmata darker, browner and thicker-billed than the western subspecies inornata that we see both in Calgary, and down here on the Gulf Coast.

A western inornata Willet

A large shorebird with a flashy black-and-white wing pattern seen in flight,  the willet was given its name thanks to its territorial call: pill-will-willet. A very vocal bird, the Willet, as biologist William Vogt wrote many years ago, has another call, a ringing kaaaty. When William Vogt studied a breeding pair of Willets back in 1938  he couldn’t help but call them Will and Kate, thanks to their calls.

Another western Willet

Several years ago, before I was a big birder, I traveled out east for vacation. I observed my first Willet out there and now I have the chance to compare photographs of eastern and western Willets.

While the shots of the Western Willets are winter plumaged birds, you can still see the smaller size, darker color and stouter bill in the eastern Willet pictured above.

I always find regional variations in birds intriguing and the Willet is a bird with an easily visible difference, making it a good subject to view and compare from the east to the west.

Posted by Matthew Sim