Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Ruff around the edges....

Rain is a double edged sword. A shower at this time of year can really spoil your fun, just ask the good folks walking to Hilbre today as an angry squall soaked them to the bone.

It can also bring down an interesting wader or two from a high migration flightpath. This is a good thing.

On Monday I was lucky enough to be around as 2 Ruffs dropped into Gilroy. I hadn't even been raining. Downside was I had left the camera at home and missed out on some pictures.

The rain that derailed some daytrippers walks to Hilbre brought me a second chance with one of the Ruffs. (a Tuesday trip there after work had drawn a blank and I thought that was that) But todays rain grounded a juvenile and by the time I was on the scene shortly after home time the sun was out again. Bonus.

As I arrive there are just a handful of Black-tailed Godwits feeding. I can't see the Ruff so I have a go at them instead. I have a shed load of pictures of these birds so I try for some more unusal poses....
The water they are feeding in is more than a little mucky and I think I'd shut my eyes if I had to fish my tea from this muddy puddle.

The sun is shining in a clear sky and there is enough light to try some fast shutter speeds to freeze the feeding frenzy....
Drops of mud and entrails of worms fly from their bills. Great to watch.

Still can't see the Ruff though. I'm beginning to think I'm going to miss out when it appears from behind some weeds. It has been hugging the edge of the pool but now it strides boldly out into the open. It's a little distant but worth a go anyway.
As I capture it's image on the camera it strikes me I know relatively little about these birds. There are never that many on the Patch and they usually turn up at Inner Marsh. I know they won't feed in salty water and something of their breeding range but little else. This is another thing that I love about Patch watching. I am going to spend a bit of time reading up on this species off the back of this trip out. Soon the gaps in my knowledge of this species will be plugged.

Like the Blackwits it is feeding away in this stunning evening light. It spends a considerable lenght of time picking food items from a semi-submerged stone. Eventually it eats something that looks like it tastes a little bitter....
Eyes screwed up and feathers puffed out it is clear it isn't enjoying it's food.

For a while I just watch this infrequent visitor to my Patch. It might seem like a dull brown bird at first glance but if you take a little time and look a little closer you will see lovely buffy tones on the breast and neck, gold fringes on the wing coverts and graceful long tertials. This is not a dull bird.
If you ever come across one take a good long look.

It drifts along the edge of the pool until it finds a feeding Godwit. They seem to get along. On Monday there had been a few skirmishes between Ruff and Blackwit, but right now it all seems amicable.
That is until the Ruff starts to play with the boundaries of normal inter-specific conduct.
It pecks the unsuspecting Blackwit right on the ass.
It is safe to say the Blackwit didn't see it coming and gets quite a shock. Detente is shattered and a small scuffle breaks out. There is only ever going to be one winner here and the smaller Ruff is sent packing. A rather comical scene comes to a close and I think that this might be the time for me to head off too.

The birds go back to feeding and I go back to the books....

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