This morning I birded Apollo Plaza and Morningside Park again.  The shorebird activity has changed little, a few up here and a few down there.  Spending some additional time kayaking paid off this morning!  I was just about to wrap things up when I spotted a juvenile Eastern Kingbird on a small stump.  I figured I would approach it and get a few shots.  As I neared it, a Red-winged Blackbird flew in and landed in the grass not far from it.  Out of no where came a ferocious VIRGINIA RAIL!!  The bird chased the blackbird all around, driving entirely out of the area.  A moment later, a female Virginia Rail emerged from the dense vegetation with six chicks!!  I have birded Morningside for 19 years, and kayaked it regularly for the last 8 years.  I have never had a Virginia Rail here.  I have often thought they should be there, but never saw nor heard them.  The little family put on quite a show.  I stayed with them for an amazing half hour as they foraged through the Lily Pad flat.  They were mostly under the leaves which were about three inches above the ground. Photos were tough since the chicks are no larger than a ping-pong ball and they were hidden much of the time.  I kept thinking I could get shots as they moved around (and did get a few) but it was tough.  The parents were slightly easier. At one point, the male, who was running back and forth catching insects for the chicks became agitated once again.  He flapped his wings and charged around making grunting noises. Fortunately for me, the small snake that he was upset over decided to jump out of the fern it was hiding in and right into the water.  It was small, dark and very thin, only about 18 inches long.  The rail was teed!  He chased it through the water, it disappearing quickly before I could get a better look.  Finally after some time, they disappeared into the dense ferns, not to be seen again. I was really please with what for me was a lot of fun to watch! I’ve attached a few of the shots that aren’t too bad.


The adult female above was tough to see in the Lily Pads, the chicks were nearly impossible.


Two tiny chicks cross an opening, trying to catch up to their parents on the Lily Pad flats.


When the parents finally retreated to the ferns, the first two chicks crossed to join them.


The last four chicks rush to join the family. You might note the top chick on the left has no problem using its sibling as a stepping stone to get ahead in life!

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5 Responses to Morningside

  1. scott j baldinger says:

    Great shots John! I enjoyed all your photos on the checklist too! I had two VARA by Haven Rd bridge this morning.


  2. Maryangela says:

    What a great thing to witness John! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks Scott and Mary,
    As I recall, several different years not long ago we had August clutches of Virginia Rail chicks at the Bash. This is my first time ever at Morningside. It was really a joy to see all the activity of this family. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about the snake. I hate it when something happens that I can’t do anything about. Fortunately, it had a good ending!

  4. Joyce Depew says:

    Nice photos John! Such a nice find and I never realized how dark the chicks were.

  5. Thanks Joyce! The chicks are black, a trait of all rail species. They’re really cute too! John

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