On 02 August 2016, Oscar Campbell, made a very unusual ornithological observation. During a cruise in Galapagos with Ecuador Experience, he noticed an adult male Ruff (Calidris/Philomachus pugnax). This observation constitutes a first register in Galapagos and increases the list of bird species in Ecuador to1680.
A possible observation on the peninsula of Santa Helena had been advanced a few years ago. The absence of photographic evidence nevertheless left doubt as to the possible presence of this migratory bird in Ecuador. This breed of Eurasian Ruff, often called “Varied Fighter”, normally passes the winters in Africa… What did this individual bird do on one of the islands of the Galapagos Archipelago?
This shorebird is closely related to the Knight. They leave their nesting areas (Tundras of Asia and Europe) between June and July. They then arrive in September (November for stragglers) wetlands, swamps, peat bogs, and wetlands on African shores. There, they feed on a large number of invertebrates. (Caddisfly, annelids, beetles, but also crustaceans and molluscs). They pass here all winter before going back, from mid-February on, to their breeding areas. It is very common for some migratory birds to de-route from their normal routes. This may be due to lack of experience or due to unfavourable climatic influences. For this species and in particular the Eurasian populations, regular sightings have been made on the American continent – more than 30,000 km from their breeding areas. It is nevertheless the first time that one can count it among the species of birds in Ecuador.
This first observation for the Galapagos was carried out at the foot of Cerro Brujo (Witch hill).
This site is part of the Galapagos National Park. It is located on the north-east coast of the island of San Cristobal, not far from the snorkelling area of Kicker Rock. Between the beach of Cerro Brujo, where the zodiacs of cruise ships land and an old eroded tuff cone is located, there is a saline lagoon. It was on the edges of this ancient salt extraction area that this specific bird was spotted. It was found in the middle of some halophilous vegetation, of which two species are endemic (Salicornia fructirosa and Scaevola plumieri). The shallow depth of this saline lagoon allows the development of a large number of organisms that provide a stable source of nourishment. It is most likely that this strayed individual also used the tidal intertidal areas to feed.
The sighting makes the official number of bird species found in Ecuador 1680. Ecuador ranks fourth in the world, behind Peru, Brazil and Colombia. This last destination, Colombia, has an official list of birds of 1903 species, making it, according to some, the “Mecca of Ornithology”
These continually growing numbers of bird species in Ecuador and the neo-tropical region are probably due to two things. First, the increase in number of national bird monitors. And secondly, of course, the increase in the number of travellers.These are attracted by the accessibility, ease of observation and especially the exuberant biodiversity of these ecosystems. The extension of photography and access to ever better materials also facilitate the registers. They are often made by enthusiasts, during photographic or ornithological travels.