Saw My First Virginia Rail… and Her Babies!

Virginia Rail and chick. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Virginia Rail and chick. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up about 6:00 am on Sunday, May 1, and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for my walk. On the way there, I saw a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a fencepost along the freeway, and then came across a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that were “doin’ it” on another fencepost further down the road, right there in front of God and everybody.  Hah-ha-ha!  It’s that time year.

The main gate to the preserve was closed, so I went over to the boardwalk area.  There’s hardly any water left in some places, so there are very few birds there right now.  I saw some Avocets, Ibis and Coots, some Canada Geese (some with goslings), and a couple of American Bitterns who were sitting across from one another at the pond by the viewing platform and they were giving their territorial “pumper-lunk” calls to each other.  All talk, no action.

I was really surprised (and pleased) to see my first live Virginia Rail there – and she had babies!  The chicks were pitch black, and looked like big fuzzy caterpillars.  The mama was trying to lead them across the walkway from one area of the pond’s shore to the other, but the babies were totally unruly and just ran wherever they wanted to.  Mama wasn’t too happy to see me approaching, and gave out an alarm call that sent the babies ducking for cover… but they were split up now.  Mama and two babies on one side of the walkway, and the third baby by itself on the other side.  The chick started crying and mama started squawking… I didn’t want to stress them out, so I left the area until it got quiet there again.

When the preserve finally opened its main gate, I drove over there and was hoping to be able to walk their marshland trail… only to find when I got to the trailhead that all of the trails were closed today.  Some kind of safety issue or something.  A sign telling me that back at the parking lot would’ve been nice!  They made me walk from the parking lot to the trailhead before saying anything.  What a waste of my time!  Irritated, I decided then to walk down to the boat ramp and back.  When I got to the boat launch, my foot sipped out from under me and got caught in a shallow ditch alongside the ramp.  I continued to fall, landing on my hip… and was very lucky that I didn’t break my ankle (considering how my foot was wedged in the ditch).  I was actually more concerned about my camera getting damaged than anything else.  I check it before I checked myself. Hah! Because of my arthritis it was hard for me to find a position from which I could get back up onto my feet without being in a lot of pain.  I managed somehow, and headed off back to the car.

I then drove down to Desmond Road to see if there was anything interesting there, but… no… so the whole trip was kind of a bust (except for the Rails).  I probably won’t be going back there until the fall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.