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:

Listen to a Virginia Rail – Macaulay Library

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!

7 thoughts on “A Virginia Rail Family

  1. First of all, let me welcome you to the bird blogosphere! Unfortunately, as the birding rules explicitly state, your count went from beating me to now significantly behind – granted this will close quickly now.

    Of course Ron leads with a bird I do not have checked off my list yet so I’m jealous! Double rubbing it in he even pulls out the chick. Although I question birding in dress shoes, I am glad your priorities are right – what’s a little mud cleaning when you can get a Rail!?! Thanks for putting the sound clip and the map on the post. Again, out doing my comparatively weak birding offerings.

    Nice job and welcome again!


    1. Thanks, but I’m just starting out and have yet to find my voice. But I’m planning on copying your blog format as much as possible, adding bird facts and more interesting back stories than “One day I went to…”. And your bird photos are really great! I’m starting out with my best ones and hoping to take better photos as I go. Thanks again for your comment–I wouldn’t have begun this blog without your constant urging, possibly to drop my bird count to zero…


  2. Evil clown laugh while wringing hangs in a my best Mr. Smithers impression – no, not at all, just supportive of getting all your photographs more attention! I should point out my blog is NINE years old – it took me a long time to find my voice and hone my style to the point I was comfortable with them – only way to get comfortable is to just keep writing – kinda painful looking at my early work, but pretty happy with the current format/content. I have also morphed my blog into a number of different styles and topics so don’t get too hung up with the early efforts – you might find yourself getting really upset at politics and start letting it slip into your posts .. just saying…


    1. Thanks, Brian! This was such a difficult pair of shots to get, so it was very satisfying to be successful after crouching in mud in business attire for so long. These shots are two of my favorites probably for that as much as anything. The memories behind the photographs are precious, as I’m sure you know,

      Thanks again for stopping by. I really appreciate nice words from a talented photographer like yourself.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Clothes can be cleaned, if you missed these shots all you would have is a memory. I wouldn’t call myself talented, forever learning, following others blogs to see how they approach a subject.


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