Sunday, May 27, 2012

Clapper Rail, Everybody. Everybody, Clapper Rail!

There are few things more annoying than hearing a bird you know is right in front of you, yet you are unable to find and see it! Moving into an apartment adjacent to a marsh, I was prepared to live the rest of my time here with this annoying feeling always lingering. Why, you ask? It's those darn Clapper Rails! On many days, at just about any time of day, I will hear that clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Of course, from my apartment, it's expected that we would not be able to see them skulking in the marsh. 

Great Egret

Gull-billed Tern

But even when we'd venture out into the marsh and would be probably within feet of at least one Clapper Rail, but probably several, we'd hear that distinctive call, but they were nowhere to be found. They seem to be good voice-throwers, or just sneaky and fast movers because as soon as we thought we had pinpointed the exact location, the call would be coming from somewhere else.

Panorama of Skimmer skimming and catching a fish

Well, we have finally gained some assurance that Clapper Rails are indeed out there and we are not just hearing things. While I was working last weekend, Nick had gone scouting for some shorebirds at a boat ramp area nearby that has some excellent mud flats at low tide. Amongst the decent variety of birds he saw out there, including Dunlin, Black-necked Stilts, Gull-billed terns, and Skimmers, he also got a great look at none other than a Clapper Rail. When I called him on my way home from work, he said, "You're going to hate me" as he gently let me know that he got great looks at this secretive bird who has not been on our visual list for the year.

Ta Da! The elusive Clapper Rail!

Clapper Rail with a crabby snack

Struggling to keep a hold of that little crab

I must admit that I was a bit disappointed that I missed this sighting although I was excited for Nick to see one. But since I had the next 2 days off, I had a chance to go out on my own and see for myself if I could have any luck at the boat ramp. So this past Tuesday, I headed down to the area, and before I walked all the way down the walkway, there was a Clapper Rail staring me right in the face. I ran back to my car to grab my camera, and was relieved to find that he was still out there upon my return. And boy, did he give me a show! Not only did he come out fairly close (within 10 feet), but he also showed off his clapping-sound-making skills AND his feeding skills for at least 10 minutes or so, which is an epic amount of time to view a secretive rail. 

The Clapper Rail out and about
Clapper Rail making that clapping sound. The sun shines for just a second!

(You will have to forgive the shakey quality of the video. I must have been too excited to keep my hands still while trying to figure out how to use the video function on my DSLR for the first time!)

I even saw another one at one point on the other side of the boat ramp. This one may have been a juvenile as it appeared to have a browner, fuzzier wash all over and was making a different kind of sound.

Clapper Rail showing his skulking skills

Clapper Rail walking through the dead reeds

Clapper Rail puffed up

Victory was mine! And not only on this day, but later in the week, too, as Nick and I went to the boat ramp after he got out of work to enjoy the sights and sound of the mud flats at low tide. The Clapper Rail again came out in the open and let us really study him visually as he pranced around, calling aloud. He dashed in and out of the reeds, showing off why we have the term "skinny as a rail."

This is how I would usually picture seeing a Clapper Rail

Why did the Clapper Rail cross the road?...

To get to the other side, of course! ;-)


  1. Some great shots in there! I've only found one spot that had really "confiding" Clappers (a random marsh in Texas), and that was before I was using an SLR.

    They're cool birds, I just saw a couple today myself. I like their thick legs for some reason.

    1. Thanks, Steve! They are cool birds. I just wish I could see them more often!

  2. For this, I surely Clap my hands.
    Great shots Maureen. I imagine you all had to brave lots of mosquitos and flesh-eating Dunlin (a rarer subspecies, to be fair) to get these shots, and they're definitely worth Railing about.

    Have a great week Ranger Leong-Kee

    1. Hah! Thanks, Laurence. Actually, the bugs weren't really biting, surprisingly. I suppose the breeze were keeping those nasty mosquitos at bay. And no sign of the flesh-eating Dunlin. =)

  3. So good that you finally got to see that bird. Great shots! This one is still on my list to get.

    1. Thanks, Dina! It's such a relief to finally see one, especially one so obliging.

  4. Sweet shots of the Rail!!! And congrats on your sighting. That is great that you were not only able to see the Rail, but able to see it in action. I love the skimming Skimmers also, great photo!

    1. Thanks, Tammy! We couldn't have asked for a better display from a Clapper Rail. He was truly awesome to watch. And who doesn't love a skimmer?! They're so bizarrely wonderful-looking.

  5. I love to hear Clapper Rails... they are one of the few birds I can identify by ear. Love all the photos... particularly the one of the CR in the sun.

    Why did the chicken NOT cross the road?... He didn't want his motives being questioned. ;)

    1. Thanks, Tracy! They are fun to hear, aren't they?! Thanks for stopping by =)