24.7.16

Ruff vs Pokemon

This is not the ruff I saw.

The ruff I saw wore a ruff unlike the ruff this ruff wore.



Nonetheless, a bird that breeds only a few miles from where I grew up, and which I'd not seen since a wintering flock in India 13 years ago, turned up at the DeKorte meadowlands yesterday.

It was brutally hot, even at 9am when I got the alert. I persuaded Margaux to come with me - promising she could catch some rare marsh Pokemon, and possibly chuck my phone into the water.

We arrived to find an active wader scene, with hundreds of semi-sands and good numbers of least, lifting and scattering among the more stately short-billed dowitchers and yellowlegs.

Dragging Margaux along the boardwalk, we passed a laughing sora and a distant pectoral sandpiper. Then, almost swimming through the heavy fetid air, to where the ruff was last seen, we found a group of locals who were clearly on the ruff. As someone quickly offered us newcomers a scope view, it flushed.

We all bailed back the way we'd come, getting on a hunting least bittern quickly. This is the first (and only) time I've dismissed a least bittern with such a perfunctory glance.

Rounding a phragmite island, we finally relocated the ruff as it foraged in deep water with a group of lesser and a couple of greater yellowlegs. Whilst it had moulted out of anything approaching breeding extravagance, the plumage retained some beautiful deep russet, black and white colors and the inimitable loose mantle feathers.

It took a while to help Margaux scan through the yellowlegs, but when she said; 'Oh is it the hairy one?' I knew she'd got on it.

A lifer for her (as are most things still, being only 6), and a US bird for me.

We drank it in, then lay in the shade, while I explained that ruff's are pretty cool because some males are faeders, having a autosomal-dominant allele that causes them to express female phenotypes their entire lives. And that this female mimicry is possibly a very clever mating strategy in a world gone mad with crazy ornamental plumage and constant lekking.

She didn't quite agree.

But she did forget about the Pokemon.


*Whoever's ruff picture this is, sorry for stealing it, but it was on google ;)


9.7.16

Year of the seagull

This is turning out to be a good year for gulls, for me. Having had both Kumliens and Glaucous on the Hudson river outside my apartment, this morning I turned up a Franklin's gull in a large flock of laughing gulls at Port Liberte.

I reckon this is one of the most under-rated and under-birded spots in the county. It doesn't help that the access is a bit unreliable, as you have to park in a gated community, which is ostensibly private. I keep the same visitor permit in my windshield that they gave me back in 2011, and it's worked out ok so far though! So much for security.

I walked through today to look for breeders, and harboring a wishful notion that the strong easterlies the night before may have pushed an interesting tern into the bay.

I found the Franklin's on the beach, foraging among horseshoe crabs. There were around 50 laughers present, and I had a fair bit of luck rather than careful scanning; those big white eye arcs just popped on the first pass!

With no camera, all i managed were a few cellphone shots. But it was cool to see a species familiar from wintering grounds up here at the opposite end of the continent. As the tide peaked the birds took flight occasionally. Franklins are the only gulls that moult twice a year - presumably an adaptation to the length of their migration. And whilst this bird was just finishing, it showed the classic wingtip pattern, as well as being noticeably smaller than its surrounding congeners.






Summer slowdown

Whilst birding here doesn't quite stop dead the way it did back in England, where July sees virtually everything go into moult and hiding, it's not exactly hopping. So I've been catching up on some reading, as well as the occasional foray to look for breeders.

Latest read is Clive Finlayson's epic tome. 



Drawing extensively on the fossil record, it shines a unique light on avian biogeography - and makes a convincing case for shifting distributions in response to climatic change, over the more expected speciation/extinction in situ.  

Well worth the read - I wish we had the same for the Western Hemisphere! 


About Me

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NYC, Buxton, Buenos Aires
I work in NYC and own a wildlife and wilderness agency specializing in the southern cone of South America. I still do some guiding down there, especially looking for Fuegian and Patagonian avifauna. I'm particularly interested in the wintering ecology of neotropical migrants, and in avian biogeography in general. You can follow me at - @domhall And find me at - AventuraArgentina.com