Thursday, June 25, 2009

Marine Park Rails

I received an email on Monday from Ron Bourque. That morning, he and his wife, Jean, had been at the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center surveying Clapper Rails. At one point, while playing back a Clapper Rail recording, they were shocked to hear a Sora respond. Sora vocalizations are unique and don't sound anything like a Clapper Rail. They are small, skulking marsh birds that are more often heard than seen. I don't believe that they breed in NYC, but are seen, most often during the migration. I rode my bike to the saltmarsh the next morning, hoping to track down the bird.

I brought along some portable speakers and rail recordings, optimistic that I'd play a Sora call and one would step out of the marsh grass and march right up to me ... not. Hey, you never know.

I spent a long time walking to various vantage points along the trail that parallels the east side of the marsh, stopping to play the calls, then listening and scanning the grass. There wasn't any response to the recorded Sora whinnying, but whenever I played Clapper Rail vocalization, a chorus of "kek, kek, kek, kek, kek" joined in immediately. I was surprised at how many of these shy birds were hidden within the spartina grass.

videoI had looped around the trail several times and decided that if a Sora was present, he had no intention of revealing his location. I had been standing at a small overlook located about midway along the main trail, putting my gear away. As I turned to walk back to the gravel footpath I noticed something moving to my right. It was a Clapper Rail and the bird was walking back and forth in front of me like a common barnyard chicken. This normally shy bird spends most of its time hidden from view, not stalking birdwatchers. But here was one individual walking around in front of me for a good 2 minutes! Maybe he perceived me as a giant Clapper Rail and was trying to intimidate me into moving out of his territory. Maybe he was out for his daily stroll on dry ground. Whatever the reason for his behavior, I was taken completely by surprise and it made up for not finding a Sora, well, sort of.

1 comment:

Starz723 said...

LOL @ perceiving you as a giant Clapper Rail! The rail looked a bit confused walking back and forth. With my luck Id never get to see anything like that. That was great!

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