August 27, 2016
Common Gallinules are misnamed for two reasons: First, they used to be called Common Moorhens, creating confusion among birders. Second, they are not common at all; see note at bottom.* So when I saw an e-mail alert about one of them at Willow Lake, south of Raphine in Rockbridge County, I just had to go see for myself. When I arrived at about 9:30 this morning, two other local birders, Tom Pendleton and Elaine Carwile, were already there, and they told me the bird had just retreated to the reeds, out of sight. So, I prepared myself for a long vigil, much like when I saw the Sora at Nazarene Wetlands last month.** In the mean time, I watched and photographed other birds around the lake, some of which are in the photo montage below. Eventually, after Elaine had to leave, Tom spotted the target bird, and we both started snapping photos like crazy. Hallelujah!
After Tom left, I waited a while longer, and saw the Common Gallinule fly above the lily pads briefly, and later it started swimming toward my side of the lake. I took a couple quick photos and carefully crouched and approached the shore behind some tall weeds in hopes of getting a better shot, but it must have seen me and fled. Oh well.
So then I went over to nearby McCormick's Farm, where I saw two juvenile Green Herons on the back pond, and was able to get very good photos of them. Not a bad day, bird-wise! So, of course, I updated the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page. It shows a flash-assisted photo of a young male Ruby-throated Hummingbird that I took four days ago. We usually start getting hummingbirds in "our" back yard around mid-August, but hardly ever before that.
* The last (and first-ever, I believe) time I saw a Common Gallinule was at Indiana Dunes, in July 2015. I wrote on February 6, "All's that's left is a report on my birding adventures in South Dakota last summer." I'd better get that done pretty soon...
** Apparently no one picked up on the "literary" allusion in the blog post title "Soras breeding in the Valley!" It comes from a parody song in the Pogo comic strip by Walt Kelly, which was big in the 1950s and 1960s. (My Dad loved it.) Sung to the tune of "Deck the Halls," the second line goes "Nora's freezing on the trolley," instead of "Tis the season to be jolly." See Cecil's straightdope.com.