Paul Linegar texted at 2 pm Thursday afternoon that he was looking at a 'dull Ruff' at Renews. It took a second for that to register. It was mid March, we were still waiting for the first migrant Ring-billed Gulls to arrive. It is winter. Though the strong and far reaching South wind overnight brought some nice +9 C temps and melted a lot of snow. Mid March is a couple weeks early for the first vagrant migrants to happen - at least normally. But this was Renews. Everything Happens at Renews. The list of vagrants for Renews is so long you couldn't carry all the megas away in your arms. Renews doesn't look like much but it looks a lot better than anywhere else on the east side of the Avalon Peninsula.
While not normally a bird I'd leave work and drive for just over and hour to go see, it was the first vagrant of the season after a long drawn out b-b-b-boring winter. I was gone in a flash.
The bird was easy to find in the well known little pool by the road known as The Wood Sandpiper Pond for good reason! It was standing asleep at the back of the pond. It was a smart looking female reeve done up as good as they get in spring - bright legs, dark flecks on upper breast and some fancy scapulars and tertials scattered among more mundane feathers.
HISTORY OF MARCH RUFFS - There is another March record for Newfoundland.15 March 1998 at Haricott, Avalon Peninsula by Mike Parmenter. Most spring Ruffs happen in Newfoundland late April to late May. Looking in some rather outdated regional books I found the earliest records for some states where Ruff is regular in spring: 12 March (New Jersey), 7 March (New York) and 2 April (Massachusetts). There is a 21 March record for Nova Scotia and there is that amazingly resilient and ingenious Ruff that overwintered with Rock Doves in St. John's, Newfoundland 24 Nov 1983 to late April 1984. During the 30 hours prior to the appearance of the Ruff at Renews there were strong south winds originating from the Caribbean. There are winter records of Ruff in the Caribbean. It is possible this bird was migrating from north from the Caribbean when it got caught in the strong winds and detoured to Newfoundland.
The birds was cooperative. Once it started feeding it walked toward the car. The sun was exactly in the worse possible position but couldn't complain too much since the bird could have easily been at the far corner of the flooded pool.
First snap of the Ruff from the main road.
Female Ruffs (reeve) are not bad looking in spring dress.
It was seen eating several carpenters (sow bugs) in the flooded grass. Normally this food item not available in March.
It looked at this caterpillar but decided not to eat it. Probably my first March record of a caterpillar.
Balancing grass on its bill.
It was very unafraid at least while I was sitting in the car.
If the Ruff is smart it will hop over the road to the tidal flats where this Black-bellied Plover has survived this winter.