Birding and photographing wildlife keeps me centered on how wonderful nature is even with all the disrespect for it I see daily. A great photograph, when they happen, is in itself what keeps me going out in the field for that next one. So add to a good photograph a life bird and it becomes down right thrilling. A Ruff showed up in the A12 salt pond in the Alviso area of north San Jose, CA last week. I stopped by on my way home from my engineering job a couple of days after the first report in hopes of seeing the bird. I first walked west but no signs of the Ruff so I walked back to the county park and found the bird in the SE corner of the salt pond. There were Least and Western Sandpipers as well as Red-necked and Wilson's Phalaropes feeding in the foam the NW wind had formed in this part of the pond. The Ruff was about 10 meters away feeding at the water's edge and what a great moment. I had my camera set up for the strong sun and zoomed to 200mm. I approached slowly and found a board to sit down on hoping the Ruff would approach closer. I took a few quick shots to get the documentary shot out of the way and then I focused on composition. I didn't push up the shutter speed beyond 1/800s so I could keep the ISO360 low and increase the f/stop to f/10 for a wider depth of field. The Ruff did move closer and the image below was taken when the bird walked to about 5 meters of where I was sitting. This is a good example where wading birds tend to move slower than warblers so a fast shutter speed wasn't as important as closing down the aperture to get a nice depth of field.
The Ruff is a medium wading bird which breeds in bogs, marshlands, and wet meadows with plenty of low vegetation. The male have frilly tufts on the neck and the female lacks the ruff and is smaller than the male. The Ruff is migratory, flying to warmer climates in southern and Western Europe, Africa and India during winter months and breeds throughout northern Europe and Russia. The Ruff is rarely found in North America but has been known to nest in Alaska. Nests are hidden on the ground with 3-4 eggs. The Ruff forages in wetlands eating mainly insects and earthworms. The conservation rating for the Ruff is currently listed as Least Concern. A group of ruffs are referred to as a "collar" and a "hill" of ruffs."
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