Hark back with me to May 1995.
I was in Cape May for the Spring Weekend racking up lifebirds when a Ruff was reported. The discovery was met with lots of excitement. My friend and I jumped in our car like everyone else eager to see the bird but instead of speeding away, we ended up creeping in a long line of traffic. Disgruntled, we almost gave up, thankfully we did not. Looking back on it, I have to smile. What did I know from rare Eurasian visitors? I had no idea that I would not see a Ruff again for 14 years.
A few days ago, a rufous phased Ruff was spotted at the Marshland Conservancy in Rye, NY. I read the report with amazement. Not because, hot diggity, there was a Ruff in the neighborhood, but because, I actually knew that place and it was in the next town over from where I work. I decided to pop over Sunday afternoon. But after standing in the sun taking pictures of the March for Babies walk, all I wanted to do was go home. It was not a life bird for me after all. But when I got to work on Monday and it was still being reported; I decided I had to try to see it. The directions were vague, and never having been in the park before, I had no idea where the bird might be. I wandered aimlessly around then gave up as the sun slipped past the yardarm, as it were. I resolved to go again this morning. I walked the paths but did not see another birder, the Ruff or any of the landmarks reported. With a heavy sigh, I left for work prepared to give it just one more shot.
As I hustled down the path after work; I came across Greg, another birder also looking for the Ruff. We took off together determined to find it. After an hour of floundering in the marsh, he spotted 2 other birders away on the other side of the park. We plodded, well, I plodded, over rocks carpeted in squishy seaweed, up the steep cliff path, then down the other side, through the woods (stopping to look at an owlet generously pointed out to us by a charming lady birder), across more marsh and out to the waterline. Scanning the distant shore (a tip from the lady birder) we found a tiny red dot on a dark body. Greg got the scope on it and low and behold, there it was a gorgeous rufous Ruff. We watched it feed, fly a few yards, then feed again. It got closer and we were able to see the markings more clearly. Two more birders came by and Greg got on the bird again and again. This was a scope bird, thank goodness Greg brought his.
Bonus birds were: a pair of Orchard Orioles, a Yellow warbler, Immature Black-crowned NightHeron, Lesser Yellowlegs, Oystercatchers, Snowy Egrets, 3 Osprey on 2 separate nests, a good sized flock of displaying Turkeys, Goldfinches, and lots of Red-winged Blackbirds.