It’s always worth a spin around Hallam Lake in the morning.

On Tuesday, 4/25, after yet another storm dropped a few inches of snow on the preserve, we were delighted to see 29 skittery Willets (Tringa semipalmata inormata),  on the shore of Hallam Lake.

The Willet is a large shorebird, aka a big chunky sandpiper. The western subspecies winters on the Pacific coast and comes inland to breed. The group that stopped over at Hallam Lake may be on their way to breeding grounds north of Colorado. They nest and rear their young in early summer and return to the Pacific coast. Willets are colonial nesters so seeing a group this size made sense.

What makes this rare sighting extremely fulfilling here at ACES is that the birds congregated in a focus area of the Hallam Lake Restoration project which was completed in 2022. A major goal of this project was to build and enhance emergent wetland habitat that is essential to both resident and migratory species, including waterfowl and shorebirds like the Willet. Unfortunately, conservation status of the Willet shows that it is in decline. In the west, this is attributed to breeding habitat being converted to agricultural use.

The rare sighting of the Willets at Hallam Lake goes to show that habitat improvement projects can have a really positive impact. Thanks to those who helped make the Hallam Lake project a success, and those who continue to support projects like this everywhere to bolster wetland biodiversity.

Click here to see and hear the Willets on Hallam Lake.

Video by Phebe Meyers
Photo by Adam McCurdy