[CT Birds] Sandy Point Ruff update and questions

Paul Smith paulsmith29 at yahoo.com
Sat May 14 22:19:08 EDT 2016

When I arrived at Sandy Point, West Haven, at 5:20pm the tide had covered the mudflats where the Ruff was reported this afternoon.  However, I was able to relocate it on some rocks by the sand bar facing the harbor.  As the tide rose, it was one of the last birds to leave, at one point unceremoniously bumping a Ruddy Turnstone off the highest rock.  (A sort of bird reality show ... "last shorebird standing".)  It finally left around 7:20pm at the head of a flock of about 50 Sanderlings, apparently relocating to what was left of the flat facing the sound.

Judging by photos from Milford last week, this bird is significantly farther along in its molt than last week's bird.  He has a large white ruff with streaks of black.  The upper half of his back is also quite black.  

I'm curious about what those of you with more experience and expertise think about this bird and its history.  Do you think it is the same bird?  How do Ruffs generally get here at this time of year?  

I did a little research and discovered that Ruffs can have a presupplemental molt at staging grounds going northward.  That addressed the conundrum as to how a bird could have the resources to be molting and migrating at the same time.  So I can't rule out this being the same bird that other people saw in Milford. If he's molting, does that mean he's likely to stick around for a while?  

I also looked at e-bird data to see whether it was likely to have been blown across the Atlantic this spring or to have taken a wrong turn last fall -- and to be returning north after spending the winter south of here.  The data did not appear conclusive.  Ruffs are sometimes seen in the winter in Florida and the Yucatan, but there seem to be more spring sightings up and down the coast than can be fully accounted for that way.  I don't know.  What do you all think?  Has any research been done on this?

One thing I noticed is that there are currently several Ruffs up and down the Atlantic Coast.  They are certainly not rare enough that we can safely track the progression of a single bird up the entire coast from a series of sightings.  Nor are they rare enough for me to rule out this being a second bird.  

I hope I haven't stretched the limits of this forum.  But all us who saw the bird this evening were curious about these kinds of questions.

Paul Smith
New Haven

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