One Cooperative Rail

Rails are marsh birds that look quite chicken-like. While that’s true, I might as well have said they look like eagles, since most people will never see one to find out differently! They are secretive birds that hang out within dense vegetation in an environment difficult for people to get into.

All this is to say that when you get an especially good look at a rail, you should savor it. And that is exactly what I got while waiting for the Sapelo Island ferry last month during the Georgia Ornithological Society meeting. A group of birders were hanging out on the raised dock platform, watching a distant perched Bald Eagle, and a much closer Belted Kingfisher. But a motion in the marsh grasses right next to the dock caught my attention. Out walked this Clapper Rail.

Clapper Rail

I think this particular rail was either very confused, or just really needed some sun. It climbed to the top of a pile of dead grass in the middle of a small clearing about ten feet away from some incredulous birders.

Clapper Rail

And it stayed there for at least five minutes!

Clapper Rail

Finally, it was time to get back into the grass.

Clapper Rail

Thin as a...

You hear about how thin rails are laterally, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one from an angle that shows how skinny they really are.

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7 Responses to “One Cooperative Rail”

  1. Kelly

    Wow! What a view of a hard-to-find bird!!! Wonderful photos…

  2. Larry Jordan

    Unbelievable Grant! I bet that was one excited group of birders standing on that dock! That third shot is my favorite. How many photos did you get during the show? I probably would have snapped off at least a hundred!

  3. Grant

    Don’t remember how many I actually took. I kept about 8, since most of them were very similar. Experiences like that make me glad I’m birding with a camera now!

  4. dreamfalcon

    This is great! To have such a shy bird that close – wonderful pictures!

  5. Amy

    Wow, what a great sighting! The only rails I’ve seen have been high-tailing it in the other direction. Nice!

  6. Jean

    I have never seen a Rail so I really enjoyed your splendid photos!

  7. Grant

    There’s a great book called Rare and Elusive Birds of North America. It seems like half of the birds included are rails! So it’s no shame to have never seen one.

    I’ve found Soras and Clappers to be the most cooperative. It usually takes a lot of patience, but if you spend enough time at the places they’re present, you’ll eventually see one. But rails are one group of birds that you usually have to make a concerted effort to see.

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