Since I live near Lake Murray, I went out this morning to see if I could find the Ridgway Rail reportred at (or near) Cowles Point yesterday. Here are the indecisive results.
1. Starting at the Restroom building at the Murray Park Dr. Entrance, I first went south on the bike path down the west side of the Del Cerro arm, and not far past the sharp turn I heard the familiar “bee-bek-bek-bek-bek-bek” call of what could have been a RIRA (about 8:35 a.m.). It didn’t sound exactly like the call on my iBird app, but that could have been because the call on the app was recoded in Virginia, i.e., was a Clapper Rail. ( Note to neophytes: always look and see [ if they will tell you ] where calls on whatever bird app you have were recorded! ). But the call sounded pretty close to what other local RIRAs sound like. So maybe a 90% confidence level on this one?
2. Not hearing or seeing anything for a while, I decided to head the other direction and check the shoreline along the portion of the trail that leads to the Osprey nest. When I got to the first place where there is a break in the reedy shoreline at the SW end of the San Carlos arm, I flushed a medium sized bird that had been in the water near the shore. Never flying higher than the reeds, it quickly rounded the corner of the reed patch, never to be seen again. In the 1.24 seconds I had to thoroughly examine it, I was able to note the following: it was definitely a water bird with a body length of a foot or maybe a bit more, with a long and slightly decurved bill (eliminating Sora, and it was definitely not a Whimbrel or any other shorebird), and was definitely larger than a VA Rail. Could it have been a Least Bittern? Given that its wings lacked the sharp color patterns of a LEBI (the topside of the wings appeared overall darkish-brown), there was no white on the underside (though since it was flying away below my eye level I couldn’t see the undertail coverts), and the bill appeared longer that a LEBIs, and was slightly curved, I would tend to rule out LEBI (it did not call). My confidence level calling this one a RIRA is about 85%. If anyone can suggest some other marsh-loving water bird it might have been, go for it. Note: the two rail encounters were at least a couple hundred yards apart.
So, obvious question, did I encounter 1, 2, or 0 Ridgway rails? I’ll never tell.
But I’d say it would be worth others going to Lake Murray and seeing what they can find.
Other birds of some interest seen, in increasing order of yawn-worthiness, were: male CAGN directly across the bike path from the small “Del Cerro Arm” sign, both Western and Clark’s Grebes on the Lake, one Caspian Tern, a Green Heron, and a flock of about a dozen Munias on the other side of the bike path from where the 2nd maybe-RIRA was seen.