The Willet is a familiar sight in the North Basin, but it usually wears a plain coat of gray, as in the photo to the left. These in the video sported a dense checkered pattern all over the back and head, with a brown background. That’s the Willet’s breeding outfit.
I photographed a breeding Willet in July two years ago (“Restless Leg,” July 10, 2020). By August the checkered pattern has mostly worn off, particularly on the head.
Does their presence mean that they’re breeding here? The maps on the Cornell and Audubon bird websites show the Western Willet breeding much farther inland. The coast is for non-breeders. Yet, these two are breeders and they’re here. Of course, wearing breeder garb and actually breeding may be two different things.
Their nests aren’t much — a depression in grass, sometimes camouflaged. As ground nesters, they’re highly vulnerable to nest predators. My guess is that if they do have a nest, it’s on the east side of the North Basin, in the North Basin Strip. That area, while far from ideal for ground nesting birds, sees fewer disturbances from four-legged and two-legged traffic than the park does. It’s wise to keep eyes peeled and walk carefully.