Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sun. 4/6: Ruff, "Western" Willet, others at Heislerville

I made the trip up to Heislerville WMA this afternoon to search for the previously-reported Ruff, and had two brief looks at the bird between 4:00 and 4:15pm. The directions Jason gave in the original post were pretty solid- I drove out Matt's Landing Road, crossed to the left across the north end of the main impoundment, and then made a left to the next pull-off near the spillway.

I first noticed the bird in flight with about 75 Dunlin out over the mudflats. A few minutes later it appeared in the ditch directly next to the road for all of two seconds, and then flew a short distance to the south, past the spillway, and into the marsh. I never saw it again after 30 more minutes of searching.

Ruffs are, as I'm sure you're aware, a bird that is native to Eurasia, but has quite a knack for running off-course, as evidenced by its annual spring and fall appearances in the area. In the two brief looks I got today, I was unable to discern whether or not this bird was a male or a female (often referred to as a Reeve). If you go for this bird, look for something about yellowlegs-sized, but with a bit more of a pot-belly, and with a shorter, decurved bill. Its flight is a bit more relaxed and more effortless than yellowlegs, and the broad white band across the upper-side of the tail often stands out, as it did today.

Just as interesting as the Ruff, for me at least, was the presence of a single Willet of the western subspecies (or in the opinion of many, western species). This bird was feeding in the northeast corner of the mudflats with a handful of both yellowlegs. This sighting is interesting for a few different reasons... 1) Western Willet is a scarce wintering bird here, and is usually only found along the Atlantic Coast when it does; 2) Western Willets are quite rare as spring migrants; and 3) there was a Western Willet at Heislerville last spring as well. So the question begs, where did this bird come from, and furthermore, is it the same bird that was here last spring? I'm willing to bet it is, but who's to say, really...

There were healthy numbers of both Great and Snowy Egrets throughout, and I came across my first Blue-winged Teal and Glossy Ibis of the year while trying to re-find the Ruff. Waterfowl numbers continue fairly strong as well, with Shovelers, Gadwall and Wigeon all well-represented in the ponds along the SW portion of the wildlife drive, while Canvasbacks and Buffleheads seemingly ruled the middle impoundment.

Location: Heislerville WMA
Observation date: 4/6/08
Number of species: 45
Canada Goose 10
Mute Swan 2
Gadwall 30
American Wigeon 9
American Black Duck 40
Mallard 15
Blue-winged Teal 2
Northern Shoveler 6
Green-winged Teal 85
Canvasback 12
Lesser Scaup 2
Bufflehead 45
Red-breasted Merganser 5
Ruddy Duck 1
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 25
Snowy Egret 30
Glossy Ibis 4
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 4
Bald Eagle 2
Northern Harrier 1
Killdeer 1
Greater Yellowlegs 15
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 6
Dunlin 115
Ruff 1
Laughing Gull 1
Bonaparte's Gull 36
Ring-billed Gull 8
Herring Gull 40
Great Black-backed Gull 20
Mourning Dove 1
American Crow 9
Fish Crow 1
Tree Swallow 30
American Robin 15
European Starling 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1
Song Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 4
Boat-tailed Grackle 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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