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Posts Tagged ‘Cedar Island’

If you start thinking that I’m crazy as you read this, I agree with you.  It started yesterday morning with a Carolinabirds post reporting that John Fussell had found a male Ruff in breeding plumage at Cedar Island.  I thought about it for a few minutes, posted a message to Forsythbirds asking if anyone wanted to go with me, and decided that I would go regardless of whether I could find a partner for this adventure.  My preparation consisted of making arrangements for my dog and collecting my binoculars, scope, camera, and toothbrush.  I forgot my books about birding the NC coast as well as food and water.  I was in my car at 12:20 PM for a drive that Google maps said was 5-1/2 hours.  But that’s not the crazy part; all that driving would only be tedious and boring.  The crazy part was having no plan whatsoever about where I would sleep.  I expected the closest accommodations would be in Beaufort, nearly 40 miles from Cedar Island, and had no idea if there would be any vacancies since it is summer season.  I was already on the road before I started to think about these practical matters.  Due to either maturity or denial, I decided that I’d worry about it later, after I’d seen the Ruff.  Bumper to bumper traffic slowed me down for half an hour, so it was nearly 7:00 PM when I arrived at the Cedar Island ferry terminal.  And what was right beside the terminal – a restaurant and motel!  Such experiences sometimes make me believe that there really is a birding god who keeps us safe on our crazy travels and occasionally blesses us with quality views of fabulous birds.  The motel had plenty of rooms available so I went off to find the Ruff.

It took me a few minutes to find the pond, but once that task was accomplished, I immediately saw the Ruff.  I may be biased because I really like shorebirds, but I thought that he was quite a beauty with his white head and neck and brown, black, and white mottled body. The Ruff was slightly larger, both taller and chunkier, than the nearby Lesser Yellowlegs.  He flushed when the Yellowlegs gave their alarm calls and took flight, but never went far enough that he was out of sight.  I enjoyed the Ruff and other shorebirds for nearly an hour, had a crab dinner, and went to bed feeling safe and comfortable and very grateful for my good fortune.

Ruff and Lesser Yellowlegs

Nate Swick has suggested that this Ruff is the same Ruff that was found at Jamaica Bay NWR in New York on July 1.  Andrew Baksh tells the story (with photos) of discovering that bird in Ruff stuff at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.  The timing works for a bird last seen in New York on July 5 to be found in North Carolina on July 8.  For good photos of the Cedar Island Ruff, see Harry Sell’s site.  The birds look identical.

There were also many other shorebirds at the pond, including at least 25 Spotted Sandpipers, the most that I’ve ever seen together.

Cedar Island Shorebirds

Most of the Spotted Sandpipers were in breeding plumage, but the one below is a juvenile.  Note the light-brown edging on the feathers of the wing.  Also note the distinct eye ring – something that’s not mentioned in most field guides, but is typical of juvenile Spotted Sandpipers.

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