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Yellow Rail, Swamp Sparrow at Waldo's Dike

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  • Matthew Dodder
    All, Kelly and I birded Point Reyes for a few days, arriving on December 29 to be in position for the three high tides, and returning today. Our first
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2006

      Kelly and I birded Point Reyes for a few days, arriving on December
      29 to be in position for the three high tides, and returning today.

      Our first afternoon (12-29) we birded Limantour Beach, finding a
      EURASIAN WIGEON about halfway down the sheltered side of the spit.

      The next morning (12-30) we previewed Waldo's Dike, finding other
      birders already searching for Rails in the raised section beyond the
      concrete dam. We joined them and continued for a hundred yards or so
      until we began to make the our way toward the right turn. We saw a
      total 4 BLACK RAILS that morning, mostly in flight, as well as a
      foraged near the barbed wire gate, a SWAMP SPARROW, and a small flock
      of HEERMAN'S GULLS heading toward Tomales Point. Driving rains forced
      us to leave just at the peak of the tide and the trail was completely
      wet, but still intact. We drove toward the outer point, finding many
      roads already experiencing mudslides so we decided to call it an
      early day.

      The following day (12-31) we returned to Waldo's about three hours
      BEFORE the peak of the tide because we could see from the hotel that
      the flood waters were already pushing water levels higher than the
      day before. Many mudslides made passage difficult from Inverness and
      impossible from anywhere before Inverness Park. At the dike the water
      was already breeching the concrete wall and we could not pass as we
      had before, in fact, to do so seemed quite dangerous as the water was
      rushing in at a very fast rate! No one else was present unfortunately
      because we saw a total of 6 more BLACK RAILS some in flight, others
      dashing into cover on the ground to escape the Egrets. Fortunately we
      did not see any fall victim to the hungry predators, but there were
      many small mammal casualties. One Black rail crossed the trail just
      15 feet ahead of us and paused for us to admire for what seemed an
      eternity, but in reality was probably no more than 10-15 seconds.

      We were still on the first section of the trail, just yards from the
      barbed wire fence when from just 5 feet from our boots a pale colored
      Rail flushed up, flew along our side and crossed the trail behind us,
      closer to the gate. We watched as it flew into cover again and
      noticed the large white secondary feathers. It was a YELLOW RAIL!
      For the next 10 minutes we walked slowly, crouched and tried to view
      the bird again. Kelly and I separated to increase the search area
      when she saw it again, very near where it had flushed from earlier.
      As I struggled to find exactly where she was focusing, she quietly
      gave me directions. Apparently, it had somehow worked its way back
      without us seeing it cross the trail and now stood there on the trail
      edge, completely exposed save for its cryptic coloration which made
      it virtually invisible until we saw it move its head. Finally, I got
      a look at it and we both had it in our binoculars. We noticed the
      heavy golden and black stripes on the back and dark facial patch, and
      then, an instant later, it flew. This time, the golden straw-
      coloration was even more striking against the muddy water and the
      white squares on the trailing edge of both wings were positively
      blazing. It took cover in the dense tangle of tree roots and fallen
      branches parallel to the road. Again, we searched, hoping to see it
      again, but it did not reappear.

      After that excitement we were able to drive out to Chimney Rock and
      scoped a RED-NECKED GREBE in Drakes bay from the road before the
      parking area. What a day!

      Matthew Dodder
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