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Old Tuesday 1st April 2003, 22:27   #1

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Location: Chipping Norton
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Water Rail

On our way back from Devon on Sunday Terry was obviously disappointed that we had not had a sighting of the Water Rail on the Otter Estuary that we had heard so clearly. I mentioned that I new a site in Oxfordshire where they were pretty reliable. So we agreed we would give it a go on Tuesday morning.

This morning arrived with dire warnings from the weather people of a front tracking south east over our area but we decided to go.

The place I had in mind was Lashford Lane Fen just south west of Oxford. It is a small reserve but in my opinion is managed very well by the Bucks Berks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. I had previously visited the reserve about 6 times and had seen Water Rail on 3 occasions. 50/50 chance, seemed like good odds for Water Rail.

We arrived at the reserve by 0945. Chaffinch, Starling, Blackbird and Woodpigeon were around the car park. On the way to the hide we saw Great Tit, Rook and Blue Tit.

Once in the hide the log showed that the Water Rail had last been seen on Sunday. For the first 5-10 mins nothing showed but as we sat there quietly a pair of ring necked pheasants moved quietly out of the reeds(our pulses raced for a second or two). Then a pair of Dunnocks put on a courtship display. They really are pretty when you get good views. A magpie flew over then a mixed flock of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers dropped in giving very close views.

Then we heard a Water Rail it sounded about 50yds away and then it stopped calling. A Great Spotted Woodpecker put in an appearance giving nice but brief views. A chiffchaff started calling which we managed to locate and then wonder of wonders the Water Rail briefly showed itself. I whispered to Terry where to look but he couldn't seem to see it and then it shot back into the reeds again and he still hadn't seen the Water Rail. I felt pretty gutted , I had brought him here to see a Water Rail and I had seen it and he hadn't. We waited for about fifteen minutes itseemed longer and then it reappeared. We watched it for about 10mins in the open down to about 10 feet. Excellent, Terry was a happy man and I was much relieved.

On the way back to the car we also saw the following:

Black headed Gull
Collared Dove
Carrion Crow
Song Thrush
Lesser black Backed Gull

27 species in all and we only walked about 100yds from the car park. As I said a nice little reserve.
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Old Tuesday 1st April 2003, 22:35   #2
wibble wibble
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Thank goodness it came back eventually!
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Old Wednesday 2nd April 2003, 09:27   #3
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Well done Steve, they are very tricky to spot, despite the racket they make. We were in a hide on a reserve in Camargue last autumn when one started calling right next to us. My missus jumped out of her skin she thought it was a wild Boar! Unfortunately it was on the blind side of the hide; maybe less than 10 yards away but we never did see it. Made up for it this winter on another reserve, Villar-les-Dombes, I was surprised at how small they are compared to the row they make!
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Old Wednesday 2nd April 2003, 11:53   #4

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Hi Paul42

I know both the spots you mention, France is a super country to bird.

Water Rail is not particularly rare over here but it is quite secretive and you hear many more than you see. For me a sighting is always a treat.

I agree they often sound like a snorting pig or sometimes the noise reminds me of a barn door with a rusty hinge creaking in the breeze.
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Old Wednesday 2nd April 2003, 13:54   #5
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Up here, in the midlands, we are fortunate to have a few sites where the Water Rail are very cooperative. The last time I went to Ladywalk (Nr Coleshill) a pair of them were out in the open for virtually the whole of the 3+hrs I was there.

Its great when you take someone to see something and it shows. Pity the LAP didn't do the same: LOL
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Old Wednesday 2nd April 2003, 14:11   #6
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Having only seen the Clapper Rail, despite numerous trips to see the rails specifically, I can relate to the frustration of trying to spot them. Glad it turned out so well.
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Old Wednesday 2nd April 2003, 19:11   #7
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Well persevered! Ten minutes from that distance is pretty good. I'm glad it worked out for you both.
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Old Thursday 3rd April 2003, 00:12   #8

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High John J

3+ hours. Amazing. Did you have your camera then.

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Old Thursday 3rd April 2003, 00:19   #9

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Rails/Crakes are never easy. but I had splendid views of a Spotted Crake last year in England and in Thailand last year saw several including Baillon's Crake which had been one of my target birds for several years.

I have seen several Crake's in the US. Would you be interested in what and where?

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