Monday, February 17, 2014

Feb 17 (Day 48) - King rail confusion.....

The internet where I am staying is painfully inconsistent, so I am going to use this chance to give myself a short blogging night. After I blogged last night I was feeling a bit restless. I realized that I was staying a in very remote area with some really good woods along the road. I decided to go on a night ride to listen for owls. This was a great decision as I was able to hear one Great-horned owl and two Eastern screech-owls (#185) during the hour ride. 

Today's main goal was to find King rail. Very early this morning, I searched around Bear Island WMA where I found a total of 3 rails. The first two were sunning themselves at the marsh edge, and while I was watching them a third swam out into the channel. Had I not been shooting through reeds, the shot of the swimming bird could have been a real winner. As it is, it is a servicable shot of what I believe to be a King rail. There is some overlap in plumage characteristics between King Rail and Clapper rail, and, in frequent instances without a really good look and listen, birders must be content with tallying confusing birds as "Cling" rails. Based much on the fact that I head only King-like calls this morning, and that this is a known spot for King rail (it is brackish), I am learning towards King rail on all of these birds despite the somewhat dull plumage. I think the beak looks really long on these birds (particularly the front bird in the pair shot) which favors King as well. As I have tried to emphasize, I am NOT the best birder in the world so If you fancy yourself a rail expert and want to weight in please do so. I have solicited some opinions from people way more knowledgable than myself, and if they agree with my synopsis, I will count King rail as #186. If not I will spend time looking for this bird further south.

I was also hoping to find Sedge wren, but despite pushing and squeaking endlessly, I was not able to get a clear enough view of one to definitively count this bird. I will certainly have more chances for this bird in the next few weeks if not months.

Bear Island at sunrise

Possible King rails (long beak!)

What I think is a King rail

The afternoon was spent kicking around Donnelly WMA near Green Pond, SC. This area is interesting for a number of reasons, but the imminent attempts to reintroduce Red-cockaded woodpeckers might lead to list. It will be interesting to see how this goes over the next few years. I here found my first house wren of the year (#186). Not terribly exciting, but at least there was no doubt on the ID! I ended up in Port Royal, SC for the night. I rode ~47 miles today, and I will do roughly the same tomorrow to reach Savannah.


  1. Nice landscape shot (and rails too)

  2. They look like Clapper Rails to my not very expert eye. The necks aren't rufous enough and flanks not barred boldly enough to be King Rails. But I'll be happy to be proved wrong by someone more experienced.

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  4. Finally, did you count the King Rails? Your list show House Wren as #186 instead of King Rail...