Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Surprise--Rufous-necked Wood-rail

Last Sunday about mid day NARBA sent out an email reporting that a birder while videotaping a least bittern at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico captured footage of a rufous-necked wood-rail as it walked out of the reeds behind the bittern.  Since there are no records of a rufous-necked wood-rail in the ABA area, you can imagine the excitement this bird is generating.  Neil Hayward arrived back in Boston Sunday afternoon from his whirlwind trip to Hatteras, NC to do a pelagic tour, and was on a plane the next morning for Albuquerque.  You can read about his visit on his blog.

I called John Vanderpoel on Monday morning to see if he was going to see the rail only to find that he and 3 of his Colorado birding buddies had driven down on Sunday afternoon, and were already driving back home when I called him.  He really encouraged me to come out.  I was able to get a frequent flyer ticket to El Paso, TX that left Tuesday morning at 6:40.  I landed in El Paso about 10:45, and then made the 180 mile drive to the refuge arriving at 2 PM!

After a short chat with a very nice and 7 months pregnant refuge staffer, I was off to the location of the rail.  The photo just above is a visual of the Bosque Boardwalk.  The rail has been consistently hanging out on the left side of the boardwalk that splits the water.  When I walked up there were 8 other birders, and one fortunately had a scope on the rail.  We watched it at some distance for a few minutes, and then I suggested that we walk along the marsh trail to see if we could get closer views.

There were 2 openings near where the water stopped, and shortly after reaching them, the rail walked out along the far edge.  While my camera is not the best, at least I was close enough to get a few record shots of this very colorful bird.  It is about 12 inches in overall size, and as it moves around it reminds you of a chicken.  The photos just above and just below were taken by me (click on any photo to enlarge).  The very bottom photo was taken by John Vanderpoel.

As you can see a rufous-necked wood-rail is well named, and also has yellow on its bill and pink legs to go along with the rest of its bright feathery attire.  I had checked to see if my friends Dan and Doreene could make the trip out, but they were not able to find an air fare that seemed reasonable.  Doreene did tell me that she had only seen one of these in central America.  The closest area where this rail normally lives is on the west coast of Mexico.

The heat was very intense yesterday afternoon, so after watching the rail from 2-3 PM, I went back to the visitor center to cool off, and to watch the non-stop action at the hummingbird feeders.  I went out again at 4 and spent another hour watching the rail feed, and then went off to eat myself.  I had heard in the visitor center that the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, which is just up the road from the refuge, had very good green chile cheeseburgers.  I enjoyed eating one but a few hours later my stomach was less enthusiastic--oh well.

I spent last night in Deming, NM, and was able to bird today in the Chiricahua Mountains which is just over the state line in Arizona.  I had not been to the Chiricahua's since my big year in 2010, and I was curious to see how altered the area was because of the large fire that happened there a couple of years ago.  The east side was largely unaffected, but the west side had extensive sections that were burned.  I still had a good day birding, seeing many of the "usual suspects" for the area. 

I just read this evening that a very fine NC birder that I know, Derb Carter, posted on the Carolina listserv that the video of the rail was taken by another birder from NC whose name is Matt Daw.  Back in 2008 another first ABA record occurred at Bosque del Apache when a sungrebe was found.  It was eventually accepted by the ABA, and all the birders who make the trek to see this rail will have their fingers crossed that this rail is accepted as well.

I fly back home tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Chris, here at Perky-Pet, a bird feeder supply company, we really respect and admire your dedication to get out there and participate in this special event. For this, I'd hope you would consider contacting myself, so we may award you with out eye in the sky award. If you would contact me at we can discuss the matter further.