Ruff

One of the fun (and not so fun) parts of a Big Year is the constant change in plans.

On a typical day, I’m up before dawn with a plan. I might be going to a particular beach, driving an hour to a marsh or hiking a preserve trying to add a new bird to my year total.

But that can all change in a flash . . . often while in the car . . . when a new bird sighting comes in. The car will be spun around and I’ll be heading in a completely new direction for a completely different bird.

So . . . we get in Way-Back-Machine and review the events of May 5 (I’m behind in my blog):

2021 has been a very dry year in Maine. We didn’t have much snow and so far this spring, we’ve had very little rain. But on May 5, it poured . . . monsoon quality rain!!! Accordingly, I decided to take a day off from birding. I had been out virtually every day since New Years and Ingrid said I needed a break.

So I slept later than normal, ate a leisurely breakfast and watched a couple episodes of “The Handmaiden’s Tale”. I took a shower and as I was toweling off my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. I suspected someone was trying to sell me an extended warranty for my car but for some reason I answered it anyway.

It was one of the most knowledgable birders in America, renown on both coasts, and an individual who has been very patient with me over the years as I misidentified bird after bird after bird.

He told me there was a Ruff, a Eurasian Shorebird that rarely is seen on this side of the Atlantic, hanging out at a dairy farm drainage pond a couple hours away.

So much for my day off.

My ride north was brutal . . . it could not have rained harder.

When I was growing up, my grandparents ran a small dairy farm and I learned where to step (that may not be mud), how to stay out of the way (that tractor may not see you) and what a storage pond contains (cows go #1 as well as #2).

Anyway, I arrived at the pond and sure enough . . . there was the Ruff feeding in the . . . ah . . . er . . . water. And speaking of water, it was still pouring.

For over a half hour I snapped distant photos of the bird, subtly different from our Pectoral Sandpiper . . . and frankly one I would not have identified if I hadn’t been clued into it.

When it finally flew, my boots were gross, my camera had stopped working, I was soaking wet . . . and thrilled beyond belief.

This was May 5 and Maine Big Year Bird #216.

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