I’ve been trying for a few months – with no success - to photograph a grey-necked wood rail (Aramides cajaneus).
Or perhaps I should say I’ve been wanting to photograph them, but my efforts so far – occasionally wandering around outside with my point-and-shoot camera in hand - have not been adequate for the task. But today I decided to get serious.
These silly-looking birds are some of my favorites. You would never know they are there until they pop, unexpected for such large birds, out of the undergrowth. They strut out with their tail pointed straight up, looking both jaunty and alarmed. They are absolutely charming. Early in the mornings and on grey drippy days you can hear them calling. A loud, complicated squawky cackle (listen here).
Plenty of other animals sit still for their portraits in rail habitat
Grey-necked wood rails are easy to see at the Bocas del Toro Research Station and I want to add them to the iNaturalist list we have been developing for the local plants and animals. Last time I was here I saw 4 – a mother and 3 almost full-grown chicks-walking single file along the fence at the end of the property. They must have known I didn’t have my camera. Later, on the same trip, they walked out from under the dining hall, only feet from where I was hosting a VIP. They must have know I wasn’t prepared.
So I was ready. Getting up early, covered in long sleeves and mosquito repellent (dawn and dusk; you might find rails but you will certainly find sand flies, and mosquitos), I positioned myself on the corner ramp of our new dormitory building. And waited… and waited… Nothing.
I returned to the house, showered, looked out of the window and there they were! Just long enough for me to fire off a couple of shots through the dirty window as they darted into the undergrowth laughing at me.
For more information about the rails click here.