Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It was a Ruff day

Last Wednesday evening, there was a post on Georgia Birding Online (GABO) listserv. This post said there was a Hudsonian Godwit and RUFF seen on Onslow Island. Now for twenty some-odd years I have NOT been in the right place at the right time to see the shorebird called Ruff.  Well, when I saw that post on GABO, I was ready to go the next day. There was a problem.

Onslow Island is part of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It is a spoil island. Right now, it is only open on Wednesdays to birders.  We were going to have to wait six long days before we could try and see this rare shorebird. But wait we did.

It is Wednesday. Plans to carpool congealed and we- Sterling Blanchard, Bob Settelmyer, John Galvani, Priscilla Fleshmen and I piled into Sterling's car and went. Thoughts of will it be there whirled in our heads, but then the email came. The ruff and Godwit were there. Even more exciting news from that post was that there were two Ruffs!

We got to the parking area, and cars were jammed into every nook and cranny. We parked and walked, meeting smiling birders who had been there and seen the birds.

We topped the dike. There in front of us were the impoundment ponds.

There were shorebirds and ducks scattered across the area. We were lucky right off the bat.  The Hudsonian Godwit was in the area out in front of us. Tick that Georgia bird. Godwits are elegant shorebirds so what luck. It was there long enough for us to see it and watch it for a few minutes and then it flew up and over the tree line to drop down out of our sight.
Sorry about the poor quality but it was out in the middle of the impoundment pond.
After greeting some of the other birders who had come from far and wide, we settled down to looking for the Ruffs. Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers were checked out and ruled out. There is always a period of adjustment when I get to a new area. 
We moved over to the west side of the impoundments and shuffled through the yellowlegs. Finally, I found one bird that didn't look like the other shorebirds. The bird I was looking at was a little browner, and the bill look shorter. I called James Fleullan over. He was the one who had seen it the week before. He confirmed the "smaller Ruff."  LIFEBIRD what an incredible feeling to have looked and missed for so many years and there she was.  
Here is the Reeve on the left and the yellowlegs on the right.

It was fun watching them but where was the "bigger one." The group went looking and found the Ruff feeding on the edge pond.  
So I didn't just get a lifebird, I got two parts of the whole picture of the lifebird, both male and female. 
Onslow Island is a good little shorebird spot and Priscilla, and I will be back. Please remember that this area is only open to birders on Wednesdays. Be good birders so all of us can enjoy this Georgia Shorebird spot.