I birded the trail around Kumeyaay Lake this morning, and there were a few Vaux’s Swifts mixed in with the bug-snarfing swallow flock. Only warblers were Yellow, Wilson’s, OC, and a gazillion calling Yellowthroats.
However, I had a very quick look at an interesting water bird that flew crossed the path (just north of the partially submerged footbridge) about 20 feet in front of me. For “very quick", read “1/2 second at best”. However, the two things that I could clearly see as it zoomed past was a mostly darkish back and two very long, orange legs extending well beyond the tail. The quick look made it hard to estimate size, but I’d call it “medium small” to “medium” in size, meaning somewhere in the 9-12 inch range (not counting the protruding legs).
Based on the quick look, I guessed maybe either Least Bittern or a rail. I went through the main field guides, and the depiction on page 152 in Sibley (2nd ed.) of a Virginia Rail in flight, with very orange legs extending well behind it, looked exactly like what I saw. I also checked rails and LEBI in both Nat. Geog. and Kaufmam, but neither showed a VIRA in flight. Nat. Geog. showed a LEBI in flight, but the legs are shown as yellow, not orange, and don’t extend nearly as far back as on the subject bird. Kaufman, on the other hand, shows very orange legs on a LEBI, but doesn’t show it in flight. Sky was overcast, so no sun effect on the bird’s color.
Another source of uncertainty is the Bird Atlas, which indicates that during the 5-year data gathering period, no VIRA’s were found in the Kumeyaay Lake area in any month.
So, can anyone comment on:
Are a Least Bittern’s legs orange-ish, or yellow? Or does the color change seasonally?
Any other bird that might meet my description, with very orange legs (which subject bird definitely had)?
Have any VIRA’s been reported from Kumeyaay Lake, or other nearby inland water bodies, since 2004?
Thanks for any help you can provide to ID this bird.