Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NYC Virginia Rail antics

Last week my friend, Peter, found a Virginia Rail "playing" with some kids in Prospect Park. He subsequently tracked down other anecdotes of odd Virginia Rail sightings around NYC. I think you'll enjoy them:

Subject: Past Rail antics in Brooklyn, NYC
From: Peter Dorosh

With my Prospect Park Virginia Rail experience of April 6th (Rail plays tag with 6 kids), I thought I'd pass along other historical Virginia Rail "follies" that have occurred since 1998 around Brooklyn and Manhattan. Thanks to friends who passed them along.

Brooklyn:

This is from local birder Jerry Layton

10/12/04 - "While working out at a gym on 5th Avenue and Union Street someone yells, "Hey, there is a bird in the gym." I rush over and the manager says, "Jerry can you catch this bird?" Yeah, sure I'll give it a try. It's jumping up and flying into the large mirrors that line the wall...of course knocking itself silly after several attemps. Approaching the bird and seeing only a portion of its body because it was obscured by the machinary I said, "Oh, it's a starling." Wrong! A closer looks...whaaaat...oh my god, holy sh*t! It's a VIRGINIA RAIL! It flies out onto 5th Avenue, I chase it one block; it flew several blocks toward Flatbush Avenue and I gave up. What's the deal with Virginia Rails and entering stores, hallways and groundfloor entrance ways? This is the third time I've heard of this behavior in our area. Anyone have any theories? You never know what or where a migrant is going to show up. Check your bathrooms."

10/21/2003 - A Virginia Rail was found hiding inside a laundry basket at Carroll Cleaners on 7th Ave in Park Slope. The bird was captured and released in Prospect Park's Upper Pool (I later caught a glimpse of that bird thru the dense Mugwort, zipping by my feet).

10/31/2003 - A Virginia Rail was found inside the park maintenance vehicles garage at Prospect Park 9th street.

Exact date unknown - A Park Slope resident's daughter found a Virginia Rail huddling inside their vestibule on Prospect Park West Avenue.

Exact date unknown -A woman found a Virginia Rail wandering around inside a photo store on Flatbush Avenue a few years ago.

9/24/01 - Dave Diaz, then Landscape Management biologist, got a call that there is a frenetic bird running around inside the Prospect Park Picnic House. It was during an evening wedding party reception. He came in to investigate and found a Virginia Rail. Apparently the party crasher wanted to hear the wedding bells.


Manhattan stories:

This one is from Leslie D who lives on a houseboat at the 96th Street Marina:

"Peter,

I have a rail story too. One day one of my cats--Woody-- jumped through the window of our boat (about 9 years ago) with something large in his mouth. He ran into a back bedroom and I followed him. When he turned around there was this amazing bird with a long bill - it was a Virginia Rail (later, I looked it up in my field guide). I yelled and he dropped the bird. It ran around the room until I was able to grab it. It was beautiful and unhurt (thank goodness). I carried it outside and opened my hands - off it flew, south, down the Hudson."

Here's a really weird one:

"A Virginia Rail spent the day (10/07) huddled on a window sill on the 26th floor of 120 Broadway. The rail had the good sense to pick one of the windows of the Environmental Protection Bureau of New York State for his rest stop (even though there aren't too many cattails growing 26 floors up in lower Manhattan). Stay tuned; we hope he's off and flying by tomorrow. Richard Gershon"

From Emilie Storrs (Late September 2005), our favorite professional opera singer. Here is what she emailed me late last week:

"About five thirty on Friday afternoon (30 September 2005) I was walking south on Broadway on the east side and had just crossed 108th St. Along the stores I saw a little bird running. My logical brain said starling but then the rest of my brain said wait that's not a starling!! It ran through the people and stood on the curb for a very long time while I wrote down all the characteristics. Several people asked me what it was and I said "It is some sort of marsh bird but the body's not right for a sandpiper or a plover so I don't know what it is." I went so far as to run to the Rite Aid and ran back with a five dollar instant camera to take pictures of it. It was slightly smaller than a robin, orange legs, orange beak with a tiny curve at the end of it (although a little bit of black on the end of the beak). It had a big black stripe running from the beak down the back of its head. It's face was gray. It had no eye rings but a whitish stripe running from the beak to the top of its eye. Its back had a pretty speckly pattern and its chest was a pretty, rusty red. Honestly, this bird looks exactly like the picture on page 130 of my Sibley's guide of the Virginia Rail, although what it had to be doing on Broadway I have no idea. Twice the bird ruffled up its "shoulder" feathers and puffed its chest way out. It was perfectly mobile on its legs. Another woman suggested perhaps putting it in a box and taking it to the park but the bird would have none of that and hid under a parked car. Has anyone else reported seeing this bird?"

I hope you enjoyed these stories,

Peter

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