Originally discovered by Joe and Jeff Greco on June 27th, Zak Poulton and I raced up from Kiptopeke the following evening and were able to find the bird along the Wildlife Loop. Ruff are rare vagrants to Chincoteague NWR, with about 16 previous records on the refuge itself. Based on the similarity in plumage coloration and timing with a Ruff found at Forsythe NWR in NJ on June 22nd, I think it may be the same bird.
Zak and I slowly drove around the entire Wildlife Loop, carefully scanning any shorebirds we could find with our scopes. After making it almost the entire way around the loop and not finding the Ruff, we were beginning to get worried. Thankfully, while on the NE side of loop, I spotted a distant flock of Greater Yellowlegs flying in from the N. Joined with the yellowlegs was the molting adult male Ruff. The bird’s large size, unique shape/structure, and striking black and white plumage made for a straightforward ID, even at a distance and through a scope. The birds landed near the wooden observation deck on the west side of the loop, so we drove over there and enjoyed nice scope-views of the Ruff. The bird was always at least 300m away from us, and the yellowlegs it was with would flush often, only to land in another area of the impoundment and continue foraging. Getting photos at that distance was difficult, with poor results…a shame since the lighting was so nice, and the Ruff was so stunning.