Sunday, October 18, 2015

Birding Through the Keyholes

Saturday afternoon I was lazily laying on the couch when my friend John calls and asks "Do you want a Yellow Rail?" I say "do you have one?" He explains they are cutting rice on the Nelson's Farm tract of the Katy Prairie Conservancy and they have had several today. Taking advantage of the opportunity I head out and get there with about an hour and a half of light left.

When I arrive the combines are at the far end of the field but getting closer. We watch and they seem to be playing chicken right in front of us. The two combines work the front row by the road, getting closer and closer. Suddenly one bird after the other flushed, One Sora, two, Sora, three Sora, finally ten Soras total few by us and across the road, but no Yellow Rail.

The combines worked their way back to the far corner of the field and stopped for the day. I decided to return early in the morning for another shot.

Sharp Rd by Nelson's Farm
Nelson's Farm rice field
I arrived at 8 am. For about a half hour I'm alone. Just me and the local group of Crested Caracaras. A couple of House Wrens sing, and a Wilson's Snipe flies out of the field and over my head. A Northern Harrier works the field, twisting anf turning and dropping in every so often. I wonder if I could identify a Yellow Rail if it emerged with one. A Common Ground-Dove passes overhead. A Broad-winged Hawk soars over I guess getting ready to head out for the day. Then some acquaintances from Lago Vista roll up asking If I know where they Yellow Rails are being seen. I tell them right here. We chat a while longer then. Dennis and Sue show up. Dennis is doing a big year also and we see a lot of each other.

Combine stalking Yellow Rails
About 9 am a truck pulls into the field and a couple of guys get out and work on the combines. We see them driving around with the hood of the truck up. Not a good sign. After a while we see then leave and head down the road. A very bad sign indeed. Dennis says he believes in positive vibes now after the Rufous-capped Warbler and says they will be back.

The Tribe waits, taking the high ground
The Tribe waits some more, Entertaining ourselves with stores of birding adventures and ideas for future adventures. The Tribe is here to see birds and finding birds they will. The Tribe spreads out some.

At about 10:45 a truck returns to the field. A couple of guys work around the combine. I ask, am I hearing a plane? No its the red combine running. Then there is exhaust smoke and the green combine is running. A few more minutes and the combines enter the field. We're in business! We reach out to The Tribe members who have left to return and train optics on the combines

Yellow Rail in flight by Nina Rach
Birding is like birding through keyholes though. We follow up and down the hedge row; grabbing a few minutes few then running to the next keyhole. A Sora flushes. A good sign. Another bird flushes. Dennis and I exclaim together "That's a Yellow Rail!" Positive vibes work again! Yellow Rail becomes Year Bird 468.

Yellow Rail had me sweating. Of all of the tough birds in Texas this is one you would expect I would get. To think David Sarkozi reduced to chasing rice combines to get a Yellow Rail!


  1. "...reduced to chasing combines..." Too funny. See you soon. Becard time in the valley.

  2. next thing we know you'll be waiting at a feeder in the Valley for some goody!