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Zapata Rail rediscovered

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Old Saturday 7th March 2015, 00:40   #1
Melanie
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Zapata Rail rediscovered

Not seen since 1970 the Zapata rail was rediscovered in November 2014. Seems that there is still no footage.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150...e-bird-sighted
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Old Thursday 12th March 2015, 17:47   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
Not seen since 1970 the Zapata rail was rediscovered in November 2014. Seems that there is still no footage.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150...e-bird-sighted


Much as I love the BBC, this is more or less a load of baloney, although to be fair to them, the fault in this case is a that of another institution I hate to criticise, BirdLife, for putting out a careless and factually incorrect press release.

Fact 1. There are quite a few sightings of Zapata Rail over the last four decades (though not lots), which are as well documented (i.e. not so, yet believable) as that in Nov. 2014.

Fact 2. The species' nest has NEVER definitely been found. The only record is doubtful being made by a local person, who was not an ornithologist, and the description of the eggs leaves some doubt that the nest was even that of a rallid.

Fact 3. No one working at the Cuban National Museum for Natural History working with the project saw the bird on this (most recent) occasion.

Nevertheless, great kudos to Andy Mitchell for putting in the hours (about one month of them!) and seeing the bird as a result.
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Old Monday 23rd March 2015, 21:29   #3
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Cross-post from Omani Owl thread; ref:
[Originally Posted by GMK View Post
an always known to be extant rail in Zapata, Cuba, as having been lost for 40 years.

Guy,
I don't wish to divert attention from the subject of the OP, but am very interested in any tangible evidence of this extancy, whether it be a photograph, sound recording or recent specimen.

cheers, alan
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Old Tuesday 24th March 2015, 09:23   #4
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When we visited the "swamp" a few years ago , I remember thinking that you had virtually zero chance of seeing them even if they were common. The site was massive and any channels in the reeds/sawgrass insignificant.
I thought there was some introduced predation problem ?

Last edited by cheshirebirder : Tuesday 24th March 2015 at 09:27.
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Old Tuesday 24th March 2015, 09:56   #5
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Originally Posted by cheshirebirder View Post
When we visited the "swamp" a few years ago , I remember thinking that you had virtually zero chance of seeing them even if they were common. The site was massive and any channels in the reeds/sawgrass insignificant.
I thought there was some introduced predation problem ?
Yes, it's immense - I visited a small part of it last year to see the Wren and Sparrow. I imagine that the Rail survives in only part of the swamp, perhaps the area(s) most remote from terrestrial predators?

What does seem unusual is that the recent sightings were apparently made without recordings of vocalizations. A secretive rail must vocalize, however secretive it might be!

cheers, alan
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Old Tuesday 24th March 2015, 10:40   #6
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Yes, our guide used tapes to attract the sparrow and wren but didn't even mention the rail. Just had a quick look on xeno canto and there doesn't seem to be any recording and I've just read that there is some thought that it doesn't have a call ! That would surprise me for a bird living in dense habitat.

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Old Sunday 5th April 2015, 15:00   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheshirebirder View Post
Yes, our guide used tapes to attract the sparrow and wren but didn't even mention the rail. Just had a quick look on xeno canto and there doesn't seem to be any recording and I've just read that there is some thought that it doesn't have a call ! That would surprise me for a bird living in dense habitat.
I seem to remember reading somewhere (possibly another thread on birdforum) that a call long believed to be this species turned out to have been a different rail. This discovery invalidated a large number of the recent records and contributed to pessimism about the rail's extancy (until this sighting).
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Old Sunday 5th April 2015, 20:41   #8
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Originally Posted by lewis20126 View Post
Cross-post from Omani Owl thread; ref:
[Originally Posted by GMK View Post
an always known to be extant rail in Zapata, Cuba, as having been lost for 40 years.

Guy,
I don't wish to divert attention from the subject of the OP, but am very interested in any tangible evidence of this extancy, whether it be a photograph, sound recording or recent specimen.

cheers, alan


Alan,

I chose my words carefully in the post above. There isn't any tangible evidence (your words), i.e. documentation (mine), to support any of the records over the past 40 years, just as there isn’t to support Andy Mitchell’s sighting. Personally, I believe that Andy saw the species, but his record is no more or less valid than those claimed by other people over the past 4-5 decades (e.g. Arturo Kirkconnell, three times). In other words, the species is no more extant now than it was before. So, perhaps it has been possibly extinct for something in the region of c. 75 years (if you go back to the last specimen record), given that there is no documentation (i.e. physical evidence) of the species since then. You can view it two ways: there’s been no documented record for donkey’s years (a lot more than 40), and there still hasn’t, or Andy’s record is fundamentally good (though undocumented), but just the latest in a comparatively small series of sight-only reports. BirdLife seem to want to present it as something betwixt and between these two options, which personally I think is something of a falsehood. Furthermore, until this press release, no one was suggesting that the species had not been recorded for 40 years, i.e. no doubts had been expressed concerning its survival into the current millennium despite that all of the audio reports had to be scrubbed.

This is why I say there’s not so much news in this 2014 sighting, as this one doesn’t possess anything to particularly set it apart, other than the fact that it came as a result of someone really doing their utmost to try and find the species.

We have known that the only recording billed as being Zapata Rail is attributable to Spotted Rail for a little less than 15 years (a fact, despite the efforts of some local guides to persuade gullible punters, usually Swedes or other nationalities that routinely tick birds on call, of the contrary) and we still don’t know the bird’s vocalizations, despite Andy’s census.

Finally, it’s worth remarking that Andy’s record is from La Turba, which is where everyone goes these days to search for the wren. So, nowhere especially remote...

And, incidentally, the predator that we have concerns about is not terrestrial. Some damn fool introduced tilapia into the Cienaga.
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Last edited by GMK : Monday 6th April 2015 at 06:19.
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Old Sunday 5th April 2015, 20:58   #9
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Sounds like a good project for Neotropical birdwatchers: tape the call and verify it by luring back the Zapata Rail.

I foresee a new book by Mr Robb.: 'Rediscovered rails'.
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Old Monday 6th April 2015, 07:13   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jurek View Post
Sounds like a good project for Neotropical birdwatchers: tape the call and verify it by luring back the Zapata Rail.

I foresee a new book by Mr Robb.: 'Rediscovered rails'.
...no doubt Zapata Rail would be found to comprise at least two species.
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 11:49   #11
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I only just discovered this post so some of the information in it made me smile as I could compare it to my own findings and attempts by our guide to see the Rail.
http://davewilliamsnaturephotography...uary-2016.html
The Zapata Rail is good for business but the Loch Ness Monster is a bigger draw and that is certainly all fiction!
Just goes to show, the less likely you see one the more people actually look!
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Old Wednesday 2nd March 2016, 12:17   #12
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Originally Posted by Dave Williams View Post
I only just discovered this post so some of the information in it made me smile as I could compare it to my own findings and attempts by our guide to see the Rail.
http://davewilliamsnaturephotography...uary-2016.html
The Zapata Rail is good for business but the Loch Ness Monster is a bigger draw and that is certainly all fiction!
Just goes to show, the less likely you see one the more people actually look!
Love the BH Quail-dove photos!

cheers, alan
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Old Friday 11th March 2016, 12:51   #13
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Just for the record the species account for Zapata Rail has now been updated at HBW Alive, to try and take account of at least some of the above (and other relevant) information.

If you have a subscription, take a look: http://www.hbw.com/species/zapata-ra...imnas-cerverai

I’ve also posted photos of one of the specimens at the IBC: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/photo/zapata-...ly-one-male-ac

Hope to get some molecular work done from a toe-pad scraping I took from the same specimen.
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Old Thursday 17th March 2016, 19:42   #14
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If somebody cuts some passages in the reedbed, and establishes a small mealworm feeder like in this thread:
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....ficult+feeders, Zapata Rail could well become twitchable. And lots of further information can be gained. :)
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