Last Sunday I headed over to the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, NY for a bird walk there at 7:30. After checking the bird list and the feeders, our group headed off. Just after we got out the sweet sweet i'm so sweet song of a yellow warbler was heard, and we saw two of the brilliantly colored birds fly over. I spotted a Hermit Thrush, and our walk was off to a good start.
Marshlands has a variety of habitats, from woods to a large open field, to the marsh that gives it its name and supports rails and other marsh birds. We headed to the field first. A flash of color in a bush caught our eye. A yellowish bird, and a black bird with a orange color on it. It perched at the top of the bush, and we could all see that it was an orchard oriole. Soon after we saw a Baltimore, which was especially early.
More yellow warblers flitted around, and over the field there were many tree swallows, some already claiming their nest boxes. Another good bird was a blue-headed vireo that was in the open for a while giving good looks.
We got onto the topic of rarities here, and the leader mentioned that a Ruff had been reported there the previous night by an expert birder. My reaction was: "A Ruff??!! Here??!! Now??!! Where??" We the made our way to the shore to see if we could see the ruff. On the way we saw flickers, kinglets, and others. A person who had seen the bird earlier that morning pointed us in the right direction, and after seeing an upside-down black-and-white warbler on a tree limb, we reached the spot.
We set up scopes, scanned the greater yellowlegs, and waited. And waited, and waited. One and a half hours later we left without seeing the bird. We did see both yellowlegs, killdeer, oystercatchers, a thrasher, and a warbling vireo, which was a life bird for me.
The person working at the visitors center said that the bird might be around at 5:30 that afternoon, as that was low tide and when it had been seen the previous night. So, of course, at 5:30 I returned.
By then half the birders in the state were there. So was the bird. We reached the spot at the water where it was being seen, and someone pointed out the bird. It was an adult male in breeding plumage, with a rusty cinnamon colored ruff and a glossy black crown and nape. A great bird, one of the rarest I have ever seen. There was a clapper rail calling, and at one point I got a glimpse of it, just as a dark shape moving through the marsh. I don't have any Ruff photos, but you can see another persons photo here.