After a few days of trying to photograph some ducks and having nothing to show from it, I gave up. Just kidding, but it almost felt like that. When I returned to South Carolina, it had been a month or longer since I had been to most of the places that I photograph at. A lot can change over the course of a month especially as it went from fall to winter. So I wanted to check out each location to get a general feel. Next on the list was going back to my favorite shoreline haunt, Fish Haul Creek. Fish Haul Creek has a few year-round residents as well as some species that come just for the winter. I spent the afternoon concentrating on the plainer winter visitors. I started with the western sub-species of Willet.
It’s easy to overlook this gray bird, especially since they are almost everywhere but they are pretty cool if you watch them. In South Carolina, we have Willet all year long. But they’re not the same birds. The birds in the summer are the smaller, browner, heavily streaked eastern subspecies. These birds leave in the fall to travel down to South America for the winter months. The birds we have in the winter are all the western subspecies that come to winter here. The two subspecies have so many differences that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are split into full species at some point in the future. I never knew about the two subspecies until I started watching the Willets after moving down here.
Another common bird that overwinters on the mud flats here is the Dunlin. This tiny bird is a fraction of the Willet’s size. They come typically in large flocks that feed by probing the mud. By keeping still, a large flock walked right around me. It’s quite the experience to have hundreds of these little birds on all sides of you. At the end of the flock, I was able to isolate a few of the stragglers like this one.