As you already know I am a big fan of my Queens list. Other than my overall life list it is the one to which I most like to add a bird. This explains why when I was upstate celebrating my parents’ fortieth anniversary on Sunday I was not too happy to learn that a Ruff was found at Jamaica Bay. Ruffs are awesome and belong in Eurasia and I had never seen one in the western hemisphere, let alone in my home borough. But even the hard-core twitcher in me knew that abandoning the anniversary party that I had organized with my siblings would not be alright. I just had to hope that the bird would stick around for a day so I could see it on Monday morning before work.
After a long fun day with extended family and friends and long drive back to New York City I didn’t get to bed until well after midnight and Daisy did not understand why I set the alarm for 5 AM. Well, she knew why I set the alarm but she basically seemed to think that I was sick in the head for getting up pre-dawn to slog out onto the mud of Jamaica Bay’s East Pond to look at a bird before spending the day at work.
And, you know, maybe she has a point.
Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris
Regardless of my sanity or lack thereof I was pleased to find myself alone on the East Pond when I arrived shortly before 6 AM. Well, alone from the perspective of sharing space with other people – there were a ton of birds! Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, and Snowy Egrets were foraging all over the place and a horde of Least Terns were diving after what must have been quite a school of fish. I could hear Marsh Wrens, Yellow Warblers, and Willow Flycatchers singing or calling and Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows gracefully chased bugs.
As for shorebirds, well, there were a host of Greater Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Lesser Yellowlegs. A couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers and single American Oystercatcher rounded out the shorebird species that I spotted in my first sweep. So I made my way further south and scanned again without adding anything to my shorebird list, and most definitely not spotting the molting male Ruff that had been seen as recently as dusk on Sunday. The pattern repeated, walking and scanning, walking and scanning until…
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Shortly after the photos above were taken at relatively long range, a Great Black-backed Gull landed near the Ruff and it flushed and flew several hundred yards further south. I waited around for a bit to see if it would come back but it didn’t and I had to get to work anyway so off I went.
On 4 July a second Ruff, also a black-form molting male was discovered in the same spot. No Ruffs in Queens since I moved here in 2008 and now two at once!