Me and Mark this morning
Black rails are as hard a bird I will have to find this year. This is due to a number of factors:
1) They are not widespread. The best areas to find them are probably the Texas Coast (where I missed) and the SF Bay Area (where I am now).
2) The are very small (5-6') and very secretive. They live in thick marshes.
3) They are black and largely nocturnal - Yeah, looking for a small, secretive, black bird at night sucks. This is why most people just listen for them.
5) This is the worst time of year to see or hear them. Some people see them as they are pushed out of the marsh on high winter tides, but most often they are heard-only. Problem is that they are very quiet at this time of year. It would be much easier if I was here in spring or summer.
So, you can see what a pain in the ass it is to see or hear this bird. In fact, I have done neither in my life! That I am on a bike really makes this more difficult. Why? Access. I am having a very hard time finding places to stay near the good Black rail areas. I do not want to stay 15 miles away since that's potentially 30 miles of night riding. Last night was Friday and tonight is Saturday which means there are more drunks than usual on the roads. I have at many points this year thrown the calls for safety out the window to access birds, but in this case I am actually listening to them. Every hotel and campground in the North Bay is completely booked for this weekend compounding the housing problem. We had a sweet housing arrangement last night, but there appears to have been a miscommunication that has resulted in my having no place to stay for tonight. Well, no place with decent, safe access to Black rails. I have seen some really sketchy stuff going down in isolated marshes during my birding career, and I do not want to get caught in an odd place on a bike in the middle of the night that I have not scouted out in the daylight ahead of time.
If you're a birder with Black rails down the street from you and would put me up for a night or two, gimme a shout!
For these reasons, this bird is a royal headache right now. I also feel like a terrible boyfriend at the moment as my days now revolve around where to hear - not even see - this bird. I am so stressed as to how to handle this bird that I am not giving Sonia the attention that she deserves. She slept in a bit while I birded this morning, but the rest of the day has been spent at Starbucks or other places where we can plug in our stuff and rest before the next rail hunt. Sitting at cafes strategizing how to find this bird is now how I want to spend the time I have with her. The search for this bird is so focused that not much else is going to happen while I am looking specifically for it.
Since this post has been nothing but doom and gloom, here are 3 funny videos Sonia and I made at the marsh last night. And, yes, they are dark by design......
Video 2 needs an explanation. Sept 19 is
International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Sonia remembered this as we were listening
for the rail last right.
We are going have to get a bit creative to tick this bird......
10 miles total today - 6 mapped + 4 of birding