“He’s as thin as a rail” my mother used to say of more than one of my schoolmates back in good old days of borderline malnutrition in my hometown of Rotherham, Yorkshire. I always thought she was referring to the railing surrounding Ferham Road School opposite our house. Maybe she was, but the expression really has to do with the Rallidae bird family, famously able to make themselves scarce between thickly packed reeds. The Gray-necked wood-rail (Aramides cajanea) is one of the few members of that family that is fairly easy to observe. They too like to hide out near streams and ponds but they also can be found in moist woodland and are quite common in some areas.
I’ve known for some time that this species can be found in San Antonio but in all these years I never actually saw one until this week. When it rains, it pours, and it has here for almost two weeks now. This actually makes for much better bird-watching than does sunny weather, if the rain is not too heavy. However, a brief trip up to Las Truchas y El Gavilán brought no interesting sightings beyond a pair of White-naped brush-finches (Atlapetes albinucha) with their high-pitched peeping sound. Only rarely do they appear right in my garden, so I was quite pleased with being able to see them up close and personal in the lower boughs of a not very bushy tree.
As you can see from this beautiful photo, it looks like someone took a thin paintbrush and, with shaky hand, painted a white line from nape to crown of the bird. Must be some better explanation than that.
Well, the walk ended even more brilliantly. On my way back home, I stopped off to see neighbour, Nerón. To get to his house I normally wade through Quebrada La Loca, pass by a bank where once nested a Blue-crowned Motmot and nip up to his house. This time, however, the river was full so I had to take a small, shakily improvised (by Nerón) footbridge. My crossing startled a Gray-necked wood-rail below, but the bird remained in view for several minutes running through the wet grass at the side of the stream. Nerón (real name Julián, all male Ticos get a nickname it seems) informs me that there are nine birds in all after a pair raised chicks in a nest behind his house.
See my next post for the final surprise of the day.