Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Ruff at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

My first Ruff photo, with several more photos at the end of this story that explains HOW I found this rare Eurasian visitor and includes the details of WHERE to find this Ruff. (Please "click-on" the photos for full screen viewing):

Most nights I closeout the day with my iPad, habitually checking the American Birding Association’s “Birding News” tab for the state of Texas (or other states if I’m traveling).

Call this late night habit my personal web-clunky method for checking the daily posts to the long-respected Texbirds list. But it surely beats looking at the news, political or financial websites!

I’ve never subscribed to the Texbirds list as the sign-up page does not appear to be an https secure site, and I’m uncertain of the “” security rating.  I’m a Chicken Little when it comes to web security and personal information.  For all I know the ABA’s Birding News tab gives me the same information as a subscription; and for all I know I’m missing out on a whole lot of wonderful information by not subscribing.  If you know, please tell me.

But I do love ending my day by checking out the posts that braver (or internet wiser) birders have shared to the Texbirds listing site.  I’m almost as fascinated by the differences in human-posting styles as I am by the birds sighted.  One gentleman appears to also be an Upper Gulf Coastie, and he writes outstanding stories of long days in the field, with words, sentences and paragraphs that make a great read.

Mostly I just read these daily reports, and don’t act on the postings callout of sightings.  But the last couple of weeks I’ve noted recurring references to a female Ruff (the females are called reeves) at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. 

Pull out your favorite birding field guide that shows a range map for the Ruff, or Google the Audubon Society’s website for the Ruff, and you will find this info:  sighting the Ruff ANYWHERE in North America is a RARE sighting.
As Mr. Sibley simply states:  “This rare but regular Eurasion visitor…”  And on his range map you will only find the famous “Sibley green dots” (for rare sightings) scattered about the North American map.

And so my AMAZING Ruff day started with riding the Galveston ferry over to Bolivar and slowly driving and birding the peninsula over and up to Anahuac NWR.  This six-new-lifer day was initiated by my nightly read of the ABA’s Texas Birding News.  Thank you Texbirders!

And as a side-note request, I’d surely like to ask birders who post reports to Texbirds to be a tad more specific on the WHERE of their sightings.  The most detail I read on the Anahuac sightings of the Ruff went something like this “from the boardwalk .25 miles past the visitor center…”

Well, the boardwalk (I think it is called The Willows area) JUST BEHIND the visitor’s center goes out some .25 miles or so.  I could have been the idiot that spent the day searching this area for the Ruff.
But I had a moment of bravery when arriving at the refuge, and I stopped and ASKED someone.  I was surprised by the corrected information the young man provided.  And so for those rare readers of my blog, here is my description of the location for this multi-week Ruff sighting:

Turning off of FM 1985 (Whites Ranch Road), drive on the asphalt Main Entrance Road into Anahuac NWR.  After a bit, you will drive past the Visitors check-in station area (it will be on your right).  Continue driving this Main Entrance Road, past the visitors check-in station, and past the intersecting road that is the right-hand turn for the car loop road.  Stay on the Main Entrance Road until it ends (as asphalt) and becomes gravel (this is the apparent “.25 mile” reference from Texbirds). 

At this asphalt end, there is a parking area on the left, and a boardwalk that goes out into the marsh on this same left side of the asphalt road.  Park your car and quietly walk out on the boardwalk until it ends ( not far; the end of the boardwalk makes a turn to the left, looking out onto wetlands and marsh). 

The Ruff and a great number of other shorebirds are being sighted straight out, some 30+ yards, from this left-side-ending boardwalk.  Be patient, it took a good while of waiting and searching before I spotted the Ruff and she moved a bit closer towards my view from the boardwalk.  My sighting occurred mid-afternoon.

None of my photos are stellar as this female Ruff was at a distance, and the afternoon lighting was not in my favor.  But the photos are of a RUFF, so kind of stellar by definition, yes?

My advanced beginner birding knowledge calls this Ruff a breeding plumage adult female due to the boldly barred tertials (think topside of tail area). The non-breeding male and juvenile do not have this tertial barring. I don’t believe any other North American shorebird of this size has this tertial barring.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Because she showed some buff coloring in certain lighting, I wonder if she is a first year female.  Maybe you know?

The last photo is a poor photograph that shows her bottom to the right of the picture and a Wilson’s Phalarope (another lifer!) on the left.  I include the photo to show the Ruff’s larger size and plump-belly shape.  More Wilson’s Phalarope photos to come!

How about that for a Ruff Day!


  1. Emily, your post brought back so many memories! Sometime in the mid 1990's I drove 250 miles to the DFW sewage ponds to see a female ruff. The sunlight was bad, but I took lots or photos, didn't turn out too good. Glad yo got your lifers and had fun!

  2. I think your pics are great. I know exactly where you saw those birds. Guess I left a couple of weeks too soon. :)


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