Monday, 1 November 2010

Disappearing Rail

As I had to be in Deal at 4.30 pm, I decided on a detour along the ancient highway to the SBBO. At the Restharrow Scrape I met Martin Wilson, on his way out of the hide. Having found out that yesterdays Pallas's Warbler seemed to have moved on overnight, with most of the Crests, a wait and see in the hide in the hope, as Mr Micawber might say, of something turning up seemed the best bet. Last week at the Observatory Dave had told me that a Water Rail regularly showed well in front of the hide so I thought I might have a chance of some pictures.

As martin had told me, there were loads of Common Snipe around, and although most of them were into the sun. With the change of the Clocks the sun was already getting low and this casts a rather pleasant warm light on the reeds. One or two of the Snipe had worked their way along the edge and were in full view of the hide.

When this one turned his back on me it gave me the opportunity to illustrate how birds with eyes set on the side of their heads like Snipe and some other waders have all round vision. Even from directly behind you can just see the eyes. This means that the Snipe will be aware of any movement and danger around it. It wouldn't be able to have 3-d vision as only one eye would be able to see most areas but unlike birds of prey that are hunting the ability to "calculate" distance isn't necessary.

Once it got to the right of the hide it had the evening sun on it, giving the plumage a rustier tone. About this time I became aware of the occasional calls of a Water Rail somewhere along the right hand side of the scrape.

After a while Water Rail appeared from one block of reeds and had a little wander about near the edge of the water.

Suddenly it decided to move to the next lot of reeds and dashed along the mud. The light was quite poor by now and such was the speed of the bird all I managed once it was a full pace was a set of blurred images. It carried on calling and seemed to be getting closer, so I got ready for it appearing out pf the reeds to the right of the hide.

The first movement at the bottom of the reeds turned out to be another Snipe appearing from the depths. I could still hear the Rail but there were no views.

Something moving at the base of the reeds was causing some movement, but it flicked up and turned out to be the Robin that had been "ticking" away for some time. It also was give a strange gurgled version of part of it's song mixed with a much more normal delivery.

As my watch and the light were dictating that it was time to go a final bit of activity turned out to be a Moorhen. By now the Water Rail sounded closer than ever, but I still couldn't see it. It will have to wait for another day.

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