Toad in the Hole

January 06, 2007

You've Got Rail!

See the bird?


See the bird now?




About this time of year, we get serious rail tides -- really high tides that flush the local rails out of their hiding places in the cordgrass and pickleweed. We went to Arrowhead Marsh near the Oakland Airport when our schedules and the tide tables intersected OK, and saw clapper rails like this one, at least one sora, and a couple-three Virginia rails.

AND we heard a black rail! Hot damn.

People flock there during rail tides, and some do some counting. Clapper rails in this marsh were in the hundred-plus range, and the others were seen in startlingly high numbers too. Want a side of irony with that? One reason is that they love the invasive exotic spartina grass, a hybrid of the native one and an eastern species mistakenly planted for restoration.

Posted at January 6, 2007 05:47 AM


Hurray for the Arrowhead Marsh Rails!

Posted by: lisa at January 8, 2007 05:45 AM

That's what I say.

The high tide wasn't as high as the one we hit last year or the year before. This year we didn't even have to wet the brakes in that v. temporary pond at the entrance to the last parking lot. But I got a bunch of photos, more of which I'll post here RSN.

Posted by: Ron at January 8, 2007 06:38 AM

off topic, but i didn't know you were doing columns for the chron until i saw your note at twisty's. good stories! [i should have known the dirt to which you referred was not of the dust-bunny variety.]

Posted by: kathy a at January 9, 2007 04:49 AM

Oh yeah. That's relatively new, and if you've been wondering why things have slowed down here a bit lately, well, blame paying work.

We do have plenty of dust-bunnies here, though.

Posted by: Ron at January 9, 2007 07:09 AM

You're right, disappointing high tides this year but I'm comparing them to last winter's flooding when water levels were extraordinarily high. The wetlands were marvelous! I got soaking wet and freezing cold but wow!

Posted by: Sally at January 9, 2007 08:40 PM

I don't think the ones we get here are the same. Do yours make that "spel-unk" sound?

Coots are members of the rail family I think. I love coot chicks. Who designed them anyway. Red and yellow. Clownish. What's up with that do you know. Is it kind of like red advertising 'bad to eat'?

By the way, the birder has some new photos up. Elk calf. Hawk owl.

Posted by: Pony at January 12, 2007 08:50 AM

I think you're more in range for sora and Virginia rail, Pony. Also yellow rail, but their calls are mostly clicks. (And I've never seen a yellow, not for lack of trying.)

Yeah, coots are rails, and the chicks are hilarious. In fact, coots in general are hilarious, especially those chartreuse feet. A determined all-out coot battle looks like two chubby maniacs on a seesaw.

The chick coloring has some odd effects, from what I've heard. Coots practice brood reduction sometimes (presumably connected to resource scarcity) by actively attacking as well as excluding the runts -- the ones who hold onto the red and yellow color longest, who still show it at the end of the season when resources get scarcer. So I suspect it triggers "take care of me" until it starts triggering "get rid of me" reflexes.

Posted by: Ron at January 12, 2007 06:09 PM

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