New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Little "Ruff" Birding in the Fog!

Another Foggy Day- Ruff at Hammonasset, May 16, 7:15 am - 10:00 am

With the reported Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper at Hammonasset on Tuesday, it was worth a try in the (again) heavy fog on Wednesday morning! As it turned out, there were good numbers of Shorebirds throughout the Park.

On the main drive to Meigs Point, there were many Least Sandpipers in the marsh near the road.....

   .......and both a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (good side-by-side size comparison).

    In the field at the Nature Center parking lot (paved section) were two small flocks of Semi-palmated Plovers hanging out in the puddles.


   In the middle of the lot at extreme viual range (from the thick fog) were a small flock of Black-bellied Plovers; mixed in with the Plovers was a slightly smaller bird. It was preening and the only view possible was of its back. Looking closely the bird picked up its head and revealed its bill, light colored cheeks and the white "wedge" of the upper tail coverts; there was the Ruff! Although the images are quite poor, the Ruff is easily distinguished (after quite a bit of studying the distorted, pixelated, and blown-up image in my cameras LED screen).

    The Plovers and Ruff took off and vanished into the fog! Looking around the area didn't turn up the birds. I decided to head down to the western end of the Park and search the puddles there (they were very productive in the fall). On the southwest corner of the Park there were seven shorebirds in the puddle; six Black-bellied Plovers and a smaller bird- maybe it was the Ruff. As soon as I spotted the birds, they flushed by the crashing sound of the slamming tailgate of a trash truck that was nearby. I managed a few quick shots of the birds as they flew by into the fog- the "smaller" bird turned out to be a Ruddy Turnstone!

    Back to Meigs Pond where quite a few birders had gathered. The Ruff was seen but had vanished walking into the grass (and fog) in the middle of the pond. After a few minutes, the bird was spotted flying from one side of the pond to the other (being chased by the resident pair of Willets). The Ruff and Greater Yellowlegs settled for only a minute......

     ........when the Willet chased them again! (Ruff on left)

   The Ruff settled in the middle of the Pond again, and the Willet picked up the pace chasing the Yellowlegs.

    While Jim Carr, Helmut and I were searching for the Ruff on the south side of the Pond by the pine trees, Least Terns were actively feeding in the pond.

    We walked up to the edge of the Pond by the pines, and there was the Ruff feeding near the shore.

   The bird fed along the grass clumps for a few minutes, and then the Willets returned. The Ruff took off and joined the pair of Greater Yellowlegs that were fleeing the Willets which successfully escorted them out of Meigs Pond and across the road to the east marsh.......

    .......where it gave everyone closer and better views.

    The Ruff eventually wandered off into the grass and out of sight. While looking for it, other birds entertained. This Willet was keeping guard on this post.

     This Little Blue Heron landed in front of me.

   And this Bobolink

   Tree Swallow.


    There was a large concentration of Shorebirds: Semi-palmeted Plovers and Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Yellowlegs and Dunlin in the marsh near the road to Willards Island. Jim and I checked through the Dunlin hoping for the Curlew Sandpiper, but it wasn't there.


Keith Mueller

    Addendum- Thursday, May 17- The sun came back!

     My day started out with paperwork, so I didn't make it down to Hammo until after 8:00 am; about fifteen minutes too late I am told. The Ruff was chased out of Meigs Pond by a Peregrine. Since it was a gorgeous morning, why not make the most of it. Unless the Ruff ended up as prey for the Falcon, it should be back.


Yellow Warblers were just about everywhere you looked in the Park.  While I was taking these images by Meigs Pond, a Brown Thrasher flew right in front of me, but I was never able to find the bird for pictures.

Red-winged Blackbirds

Tree Swallow

Mourning Dove

Cedar Waxwings


Little Blue Heron

Tri-colored Heron

 Glossy Ibis

     The Ruff never returned while I was at the Park so I left to go home. Just as it always happens, I walked in and checked my email and found the report that the Ruff had just been spotted!! So back in my truck I went and when I arrived at Meigs Pond, there was the Ruff on the edge of the pond next to the road. Unfortunately the sun was at the wrong angle for pictures, but I welcomed the opportunity. As it turned out, the Willets were continuing their territorial antics and kept chasing the Ruff from one side of the pond to the other. When the Ruff was on the south side of the pond, the angle of the sun was better, and the images were a little better as well......just wished the bird came a little closer.

     Here comes the Willet.......

     .....there goes the Ruff!

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT