Sunday, July 16, 2017

Clapper Rail Parade

I yearn for the outdoors, to spend time observing wildlife, and being immersed in a habitat. I suppose I'm kind of like an Ariel, you know the little mermaid (even with the red hair to boot!), but wanting to be part of the world of the wildlife I enjoy so much seeing; seriously, people are overrated. Sometimes, the world grants me that wish and it's what keeps me going out the door, waking up early, and toting my binoculars, slung over my shoulder.

This morning I woke up early and headed to Plumb Beach. The tide was reaching its lowest point which is perfect for water-loving birds as it exposes the mud and all the creatures hiding in it that birds like to eat. I  nearly had the beach to myself with the exception of two fellow birders. I wasn't hoping for much, but, as always the outdoor world always surprises me...
Th low waters were active with waders- in between the laughing gulls were snowy egrets (above), oystercatchers, and a very excited black crowned night heron...

When you see black crowned night herons, they are usually all smushed together and compact. But when active and hunting, that neck is outstretched, it's up on its feet looking for (literally) anything to snag.

Quite a few least sandpipers shuffling around the spaces closest to shore.

The least are easy to tell apart with their yellow legs, small size and slightly downward curving bill.

This funny little fella is a juvenile least tern. Its black cap has yet to fill in and its yellow bill tipped lightly with black is not quite there yet.

Still being tended to by its parent, who brings it a fish it caught. Soon this guy will be learning the ropes of how to secure food on its own.

Eat up, little buddy!

I rounded the eastern most point to wander in to the marsh. And let's just say I got my Ariel wish...

First, I spotted a few Clapper rails just out, in the open (not a very typical scene).
Then As I walked toward the marsh I noticed an adult with some little ones in tow-- 3 chicks! 

I held my ground, at the distance I was at. I didn't want to spook them. I just stood (couldn't get low, I was in water) and observed... and then...

The chicks sat in their little marshy grass nook, when 15 feet from me, another adult rail comes out from the grass and proceeds to bathe. Right there, practically next to me. My attention was stolen by such a rare moment.

Clapper rails, the size of a small chicken (bantam size), are super secretive. You are more likely to hear their "clak-clak-clak-clak-clak" call than see them. So for them to see you, and be near you, and be exposed to the world- that is one brazen bird.

So at this point I am just in awe. Just soaking up this moment and in my head reflecting on how special this is.

So here's the thing about birding... people do it for different reasons, even a single person may have various reasons for why they bird. One of my number one reasons is the chance to see what's out there and even more so what it's doing out there in the natural world. So when I am out, it's nice to see the bird, but its even nice to observe its natural behaviors - whether its bathing, feeding, rearing young, protecting its turf, I find it so fascinating. I also feel so rewarded and connected when it all unfolds in front of me. It makes every walk special and wow, did this feel special! But seriously, wait-- this isn't even the best part!

This rail is also in perfect, beautiful morning light, being able to see every splash, dip, and drip of water.

Attention stolen for a hot second by a gorgeous little blue heron...

Now that the bath is over, it was time to perfect the finer things-- wing stretching, scratches, and feather preening.

And behind me another clapper rail comes out to start preening-- where am I?!

And then as my bathing buddy put on the final...

finishing touches, with a bit of floof....

Enter two chicks!!! 

Now, the adult and two chicks are practically parading in front of me. And I have this all to myself, and I am really okay with that, it makes it even more special.

A face that only a mother could love? Perhaps, but these little guys remind me of the dinosaurs I loved so much as a kid. The prints they leave behind can be argued as avian or non-avian dinosaur-- because yeah, birds are dinosaurs. And those theropod prints are spot-on!

I would say, you'll grow into those feet, but nah. Those large splayed feet help these birds walk and wade through salt marsh habitat. Striding over floating plants or over reeds, those feet are a superb adaptation.

Once the babies and their parent walked into the marsh after a generous time out in the open, I wondered in a bit more. Very thankful to have been so lucky to catch all the moments that just happened all around me.

Another adult clapper rail, in a more typical scenario. We met eyes, then this one ducked behind the reeds it was standing upon.

A beautiful snowy egret fly-by.

Some greater yellowlegs (pictured) and short-billed dowitchers rounded out the final part of my walk through the marsh.
A truly delightful morning and so happy to have made the choice to get my butt outside today!