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Re: [CALBIRDS] help needed: black rails

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  • Lambert & Conard
    Thomas and all, 1/1/2002 Palo Alto Baylands Santa Clara County Bird s discussed: Clapper Rail, Black Rail, Nelson s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow. Today
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2002
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      Thomas and all,

      Palo Alto Baylands
      Santa Clara County
      Bird's discussed: Clapper Rail, Black Rail, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow,
      Swamp Sparrow.

      Today Kimya Lambert and I (finally) made our first trip to the Palo Alto
      Baylands. We didn't find a Black Rail, but it was still a good trip.

      We found a very bright Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow on the boardwalk that
      begins at the nature center, and had some nice views of a Clapper Rail. The
      sparrow was in the vegetation just before the boardwalk crosses a small
      channel. It moved through the veg, hopped onto the boardwalk, and then flew
      about forty feet and disappeared. We got excellent views of the bird. The
      rail was first seen by Kimya in the channel, and moved out onto the flats,
      where we got several more brief views for about fifteen minutes. A Baylands
      volunteer named Dan told us that the above channel is the most dependable
      place there to find Clapper Rail. We were the first to arrive this morning,
      and saw both the rail and sparrow between 9:00 and 9:30. At that point
      there was mostly mud in the channel, and there were numerous Clapper Rail
      tracks. Fifteen to twenty people showed up to look for rails at high tide
      at around 1:15, but to my knowledge nobody was successful.

      The exception was a man (we didn't catch his name) who said he saw a Black
      Rail (before high tide), sharp-tailed, and Swamp Sparrow along the channel
      that flows toward the airport. (According to this individual, sharp-tailed
      sparrows are more common than Swamp Sparrows at the Baylands. He said he
      has been finding sharp-taileds for fifteen years, but until today hadn't
      found a Swamp Sparrow (at the Baylands). That surprised me. I wonder if
      others have had similar observations. I am far more familiar with the
      Central Valley (and to a lesser extent Point Reyes and Bodega Bay). In
      these locations, Swamp Sparrows are quite rare, but regular. I have never
      heard of a Central Valley sharp-tailed record, and they appear to be far
      more scarce in the North Bay than Swamp Sparrow.)

      We looked for Black Rail with a group of ten or so others at high tide
      without success. For those who haven't been there before, the best spot
      according to the locals is in the bend in the road near the parking lot to
      the nature center. There are posts with a chain barrier. At high tide, the
      rails are sometimes seen along the water's edge, or on floating debris and
      vegetation. From that point today, we only had a swimming Virginia Rail.
      The tide was high, but not nearly so high as to force the rails up onto the
      pavement as others have seen. The best combination is high tide and winter
      flooding (for wildlife viewing, not for the rails, as they are vulnerable to

      From Hwy 101, take the Embarcadero exit and head east. After about 0.8
      miles, the road "T"s into another road. Follow signs left another 0.2 miles
      to the nature center. Quite a few people will probably line up at the
      "Black Rail Spot," so it should be easy to find around high tide. For the
      area where the Black Rail, sharp-tailed, and Swamp Sparrows were reported
      today, continue walking past the nature center along the channel toward the
      airport. We searched this area without success in the afternoon.

      For information on tides, you can check

      Good Luck,

      Chris Conard
      >From: Thomas Miko <thomasmiko@...>
      >To: caLBIRDS@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [CALBIRDS] help needed: black rails
      >Date: Tue, Jan 1, 2002, 1:38 PM

      >Dear Calbirders
      > I have been hearing for years about this winter ritual of going to the San
      >Francisco Bay area (Palo Alto???) to some parking lot, where the winter
      >high tide flushes Black Rails out onto the pavement. I would like to get
      >as much specific information as possible on this, including the
      >end-of-january date and time to be there, because I have to ask for time
      >off from my job WEEKS ahead of time.
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