As Jennifer Schrand and I sat on the rip-rap that skirted the White Oak Creek bridge at the base of HWY 751, we could hear the King Rail’s relentless kek-kek-kek getting louder and louder until we were sure it was very close, but we could detect no movement among the reeds to indicate its exact location. This amazed me. But then I remembered what I’d read about the bird, named the Rail because perhaps it is as thin as one. And maybe that’s why it can manuever through the reeds without moving them.
But we waited for it, our numb bottoms molding to the pointy rocks we sat on. Finally, a wing flutter near a dead tree. Then later, another brief and unsatisfying view. Then it ventured into thinner reeds where finally we watched it sneak to the edge of a rivulet and step into it. That was the best view we got the whole hour and a half we were there. It was so fast though, that I could not focus my camera on it, and in seconds, the rail crossed into another reedy patch away from our eyes. Jennifer snapped a “Where’s Waldo” photo of it (look in the lower center of the photo for its silhouette). I recorded a snippet of the King Rail’s kek-kek-kekking along with the noise of traffic.
After sitting way too long, we stiffly rose up from our stony seats, our bottoms like memory cushions. But we were smiling with satisfaction even with the unsatisfying glimpses of the King Rail, a life bird for both of us. As we teeter-tottered up the rip-rap toward the highway, I thought about the thin rail that moved no reeds as it slinked through the marshes. What a life that must be to walk thinly among the reeds.