Tuesday, 1 April 2014

182. Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Water Rails are a common, but secretive, resident of lakes and ponds with thick reeds and/or sedges. Sometimes they will come out into the open though, e.g. in winter if the water is frozen or to feed under bird tables that are near water. They are more often heard than seen, having a delightful squealing call that sounds a bit like a piglet being murdered. Despite the sarcasm I rather like Water Rails, the adults are quite handsome to my mind, always good to see, and the chicks are some of the cutest around! I once saw a couple bumbling around with an adult at Woolston Eyes nature reserve, it took me a minute to register what these tiny round jet-black fluffballs were. The photo is of an adult, and juveniles are similar above, but their underparts are pale brown and less uniform - they have pale fine barring on the sides of their breast and head and a darkish mask. Water Rails are widespread and resident across much of western Europe; further to the east and north they are migratory, moving further south outside the breeding season.

Water Rail, ©Ján Svetlík, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Water Rail painting.
I finally worked out why I find shades of grey so difficult to get right, it's because the colour looks completely different when the paint's wet compared to when it's dried :-/

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