- Southeast Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray - https://www.arizonabirder.com -

Take the Ruff with the Smooth

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I’m on a roll! 😀

I started the day at Sweetwater Wetlands and had a fine time with the camera.

From there I headed to Pinal Air Park to look for Burrowing Owls. I wasn’t disappointed either, with two splendid owls by the side of a dirt road to the east of the old pecan grove.

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I was on the way to pick a friend up from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, so I continued north. I planned to tour the Santa Cruz Flats and took my usual route, but was instantly flumuxed at Red Rock by the building of an entire town since I last went this way. Confused, I got back onto I-10 and continued to the Sunshine Boulevard exit. A couple of miles after turning I passed a wet field, and out of the corner of my eye noticed a few birds, shorebirds it seemed, so I turned the car round and went back for a look.

There were several Greater Yellowlegs and I began to count them as I scanned the field: five, six, seven, eight… oh… a Ruff! I immediately experienced mixed emotions – I knew Ruff was an extremely rare bird in Arizona, but at the same time it was a bird I was totally familiar with, having seen thousands of them in the UK. I got the scope out and made absolutely sure, then got some record shots and phoned the news in to the Tucson Audubon Rare Bird Alert hotline.

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By now it was 4pm so I didn’t have much time to explore the flats. I decided to leave the Ruff – I’d given good directions – and see what else I could see. A couple of miles south on Sunshine Boulevard there was a Prairie Falcon on a roadside pole, and then an impressive Ferruginous Hawk on the next pole. I saw another Prairie Falcon as I toured the flats at breakneck speed, hoping for Crested Caracara or Mountain Plover but finding none, but soon decided I should go back to see if the Ruff was still there.

It was, so I spent more time scanning this field, which revealed at least 18 Greater Yellowlegs and a few Killdeer, Least Sandpipers and American Pipits. And one Ruff. I left at dusk and collected my friend from the airport. At dawn the next day a group of birders gathered at the scene but the Ruff, and most of the other shorebirds, had moved on overnight and were never seen again. If accepted it will be the 9th Ruff for Arizona and only the 3rd in SE Arizona.