Doing the Virginia Rail Dash

Sometimes it’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

My friend and I were circling the ponds at our county nature center. She had a new camera and wanted to practice its unfamiliar settings, and I was along because I like birds and I like her.

We had accumulated the usual list of species—Black-capped Chickadees, Canada Geese, Belted Kingfisher, Red-tailed Hawk, etc.—and had nailed some satisfactory (but not exactly stunning) photos of a Cooper’s Hawk, and were heading up the hill back to the parking lot when we heard a strange sound. It was definitely a bird, but which one?

After pulling out her phone and playing a few bird sounds, my friend realized that we were hearing not one, but two Virginia Rails. They weren’t making their usual metallic click sound, the one I was familiar with. Rather, it was more of a squeaky cry. I love how every birding trip teaches me something new!

So we traipsed back to the marsh we had just left, cameras poised. And we weren’t disappointed. First the two birds ran across the path. Then they realized that there was more cover on the side they had started on, so they got ready to run back.

Gotta get back to the cattails across the path!
Oh no, I’ll be exposed. I’d better hurry. On your mark…
Get set…
Go!

And in case you’re wondering… yes, that’s a small crab spider on the rail’s head!

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