Lifer 301…..My Virginia Rail

In the world of birding, a lifer is a bird that an individual has seen for the first time in his or her life.  When I got into serious bird photography about ten years ago, I was only interested in photographing them.  In that vein, as I captured them on film, I found that I needed to be able to tell people what I was photographing.  I then started buying various guides so I could learn about the different species.  I also found that there are 383 different species just in my local area of the Concho Valley.  In my edition of Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America, there are 854 species in the country.  Now get this, as of February 26, 2018, there are 648 species that can be seen in the state of Texas.  That is according to the Texas Birds Records Committee of the Texas Ornithological Society.    Wow!!  that is around 75% of the entire national count.  So if you want to see bird, Texas is the place to be.

Right now we are in the middle of spring migration.  Birds are moving north from Mexico, etc, to their northern homes.  Some stop here, others keep on moving more northerly.  So, the odds of seeing more unique birds is really great this time of year.  In the fall this is all reversed.

Anyway, as the years have gone by, I adopted the habit that most birders have, of keeping track of how many of these birds I have actually seen and have learned to identify.  Most I have photographed.  Others, I have observed closely with the help of more expert birders.  I have accumulated the “life list”.  I saw number 301 a few days ago.  It was my very first Virginia Rail, a very rare bird for the San Angelo area.


Virginia Rail

At the time, we, Ann and I, were watching for a Sora, another marsh bird, that had been reported.  We had arrived early, with a burrito and coffee, at the area where the Sora had been reported.  It was a small marshy area with reeds and cat-tails; the perfect habitat.  The Sora is a very shy bird that doesn’t like to show itself often.  So patience is the key.  We sat there for about 45 minutes while we finished our breakfast.  We were about to leave, when Ann saw a little movement.  We got some teasing little peeks through the grasses, then….what the??  I saw an orange bill.  Hey, wait a minute, Sora’s don’t have orange bills.  A few seconds later, the Virginal Rail, pictured above finally ventured into the open.

The Virginal Rail and the Sora both winter in Mexico and east along the gulf coast.  They then migrate to spend summer the northern states.  It was during this migratory trip that they decided to stop off here in San Angelo.  Possibly traveling companions.  Anyway, a few minutes after this exciting event, the Sora that we were originally looking for came out of the reeds at almost the same location.



So, getting a ‘tofer’ made for an exciting morning.  Getting great photos of each added a little sugar.  You can see my entire Life List by clicking on that button at the top of this page.

Until the next time



19 thoughts on “Lifer 301…..My Virginia Rail

  1. The Virginal Rail bears a very similar resemblance to our Water Rail in the U.K. They’re quite elusive here, with the best chances of seeing them being in icy weather when they are forced out to be more adventurous with finding food. Sounds like they require equal patience over there too. Great shots.

  2. Glad you got to add a lifer to your list, Bob and Ann. I have seen a Sora but not a Virginia Rail. Both from the Rail family, They have similarities in the way they “sneak” through the grasses, as well as in their physical structure. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great story! I can just you two sitting there with a burrito and waiting! So glad it was such a wonderful surprise!

  4. I’m not one who keeps a list of birds, but I have friends who do, and I know how exciting it is for them to add a new bird to the list. Congrats on yours — they are lovely.

  5. Bob, I love your writing. I am so glad you are able to be out again after your recent health issues. And what a welcome! Your photos are always engaging and clear. Thanks again. Marcy

  6. A “Double Luck” day! Not many marsh type birds come through Panhandle plains area, and we are extra dry this year.

  7. Well, I am in Texas but I haven’t seen a lot of birds other than mockingbirds, cardinals, swallows…and a bird that looks like a sparrow or house wren. Oh and I shouldn’t forget–there are turkey vultures. But I am not very good at identifying birds, so maybe I am seeing more kinds of birds than I know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s