On August 11, 2015, I stopped by the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, after work. I heard what I found later to be a Virginia Rail calling very loudly in the reeds of the marsh, and with a lot of patience managed to photograph a female Virginia Rail and one of her four chicks.
At the end of this post is a map of the forest preserve. At the rightmost corner of the square gravel walkway, a narrow inlet leads to the narrow strait of the marsh.
The Virginia Rail continued to call, so I walked over to that area with my camera and carefully walked through the opening in the reeds to the water’s edge. I finally squatted down on some dead reeds, my dress shoes sinking in the mud, and waited for the bird to cross the opening so I could take a shot. I could hear it rustling and calling, so it was very near:
It seemed like forever, maybe 30 solid minutes of torture, before the rail showed itself and slowly walked across the opening. I excitedly took several photos, realizing how lucky I was that late in the evening to have the setting sun behind me.
Very cool! I was just about to turn to leave when I noticed a small black chick poking its head out and wanting to follow its mother. It took some time, but he finally walked slowly across as well!
Three more chicks eventually crossed the opening, but very, very quickly. Obviously, this first chick was the bravest by far.
As it turned out, I had a difficult time standing up after all that time. I ended up having to press my hand into the mud to get up, and I more or less stumbled back to my car. This is one of my best birding memories, though, one of those times where patience pays off!