Today was mostly cloudy with occasional showers (and breaks of sun between showers).
I was up and out earlier than intended (after not falling asleep until after 1am) when I got a call to help out with something.
After taking care of that, I stopped by the channel. There were many gulls, but I did not spot anything unusual.
I could see fresh snow showing below clouds at around 4000ft. This is the first termination dust I’ve seen. It’s a bit earlier than I’m used to.
I spent time by Swan Lake, but neither heard nor saw any sign of the yellowthroat or blackbird.
I got a text message about different (large) shorebird at park from AT. He described it having a buffy breast, and I wondered about Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. When he looked in the book, he thought that could be right.
I went down to take a look. The bird was still there. As I sat watching it and taking photos, some doubts crept in. Its neck looked a little funny in a way that made me wonder about Ruff. Had I any idea what immature Ruffs looked like at the time, I no doubt would have started going that way sooner.
Others arrived and did some looking. They spent some time looking up illustrations/pictures on the phone (and a couple had prior experience seeing a Ruff). They all were leaning pretty hard towards Ruff. When I mentioned that to the person who first saw it, he said he had seen it fly and it did have a u-shaped band on rump (which field guides indicated is definitive).
The Ruff seemed quite mellow, almost to the point of lethargic. I suspect it was quite tired, perhaps from a long flight.
I spent over an hour there with it. I mostly just sat and watched, sometimes chatting with other birders who showed up. It was very cooperative for photos. At times it walked within only a few feet of me. I ended up with several hundred photos (#163, AK#233).
This was the second reported Ruff for Sitka. The first showed up in May 1990 at the Turnaround and was here for several days (DK saw both that one and this one).
This afternoon I was able to get out for a boat ride with PN. I had asked him about getting out to look for shearwaters. There have been reports of Short-tailed Shearwaters lately. I would be interested in seeing those, but even a Sooty Shearwater would be nice to add to my year list.
We went out through middle channel and then towards Vitskari. Maybe 2/3 of the way there, we turned northeast then went around Bieli Rocks.
It was not a calm day on the sound. We did see a few scattered shearwaters and alcids, plus a handful of phalaropes.
It was challenging to get photos between the movement on the waves and the fast flybys most of the shearwaters made. As I’m writing this, I’ve not had a chance to review my photos sufficiently to know if I got any that might be sufficient for ID (and so am not sure which species I might have seen). Given the challenges of distinguishing Sooty and Short-tailed Shearwaters, plus my default assumption that I’m generally seeing Sooty Shearwaters, I may end up doing a separate post to try and solicit help with shearwater ID for my photos going back to prior years as well.
When we got to the relative calm near Gagarin Island, we stopped for Paul to do some fishing.
There were quite a few Black-legged Kittiwakes around. I also saw a Pacific Loon in breeding plumage fly in (but wasn’t able to get photos before it dove).
On the way in we saw a couple groups of Rhinoceros Auklets near Kasiana Islands. I don’t usually expect to see them in this area, but then I remembered I recently saw one right off shore of Sea Mart (which was also a bit of a surprise).