Virginia Rails at West Rutland Marsh

By josh • Nature, Wildlife • 22 Jun 2012

Virginia rails, like most rallids, are particularly difficult to lay eyes on. They weave in and out of dense marsh vegetation and move quickly across any open spaces.  They have absurdly large feet, which they use to stay atop the water and muck as they hunt.  I was pleasantly surprised to find no fewer than five of them willing to be ogled on a recent brief stop at West Rutland Marsh.

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 200

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail at West Rutland Marsh, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 200

Two of the five were chicks, which were unbearably cute and impossible to photograph.  As I was climbing into my car to leave, a tiny jet-black puffball with huge feet went scampering across the road.   I pulled the camera back out in case it reappeared.  Just as I was getting the lens cap off and was fiddling with the settings, a second chick raced across.  The photo I got was terrible.  Someday hopefully I’ll set up a mobile blind to try to get some better shots of these little guys.

Virginia Rail Chick

Virginia Rail Chick at West Rutland Marsh, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/11, 1/500s, ISO 400

As I was waiting to see what would happen next (though I’m not sure that better preparation for a third chick would have resulted in a better photo) I noticed that Mama Rail was sitting anxiously in the grass on the opposite side of the road from her chicks.  At that point I figured I’d better leave in case I was causing them stress.  Amazing birds!

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail at West Rutland Marsh, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, 1/400s, ISO 400

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