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  • Ecologist Joe Smith holds an eastern willet after taking samples and measurements of the bird as part of his three-year research project.
  • Field intern Ashley Green holds a willet in a bag to keep it calm while she and a volunteer collect samples from the bird.
  • Counting feathers.
  • Drawing a blood sample.
  • Unique color-coded bands that identify tagged birds.
  • Portrait of a willet.
  • A geolocator tag, which use hours of sunlight to calculate latitude and longitude. Geolocators are small and lightweight, allowing researchers to track more types of migratory birds than satellite tags.
  • Smith and Green move in to catch a willet using a "mist net."
  • Dragging a larger net, dubbed the “reaper” by Smith and his team, across the marsh to catch a willet off the nest. Willets are the only shorebirds to nest in salt marshes.
  • Dragging a “reaper net.”
  • Smith and Green collect data.
  • Four willet eggs in a nest. The small metal disk is a temperature logging device that records incubation timing and flooding events.
  • Horseshoe crabs at Gandys Beach. Thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore here in early summer to lay their eggs in the sand.
  • Joe Smith holds a handful of horseshoe crab eggs.
  • Gandys Beach is part of the Delaware Bayshores, an important stopover site for many migratory birds—eastern willets, red knots, turnstones, dowitchers, sandpipers, plovers and more.
  • An eastern willet surveys the marsh from a post.
The Nature Conservancy
To Catch a Willet

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