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AFRICAN RAIL & BLACK CRAKE AT PLETT

Posted on the 29th June 2015

(This report first appeared in the May 2015 club newsletter on BidLife Plett and is posted with the permission of the Editor. Images will be added later. - Ed.)

African Rail and Black Crake – Mike and Carole Bridgeford – 21 May 2015
Carole and I spent some time at the small dam yesterday where the Painted Snipe was initially located by George and Jeanette Powter.
We never managed to see the Snipe this time, but we did get good sightings of African Rail and Black Crake. We also got good views of the local Forest Buzzard, as well as some of the more common birds - African Spoonbill and Cape Wagtail.
The last time I saw the African Rail at Wilderness, I remarked that the size was fairly large - I have some photos of that bird, and indeed it was as I had remembered it - fairly large.
The Rail at this pan was quite small, and not a great deal of difference in size to the Black Crake - we saw both at the same time, so had a good comparison. This confused me, as our local guide books state that the African Rail [36cm] is quite a bit larger than the Black Crake [20-23cm]!
Barry Taylor, wrote the World Book of Rallids - I looked up this book which he very kindly gave to me when I last met him. He states that the female bird is quite a bit smaller than the male bird. This is not mentioned in our local books. But perhaps this would explain why this bird was so much smaller than the previous bird I sighted - it was probably a female.
Both these Rallids are shy and like to keep under cover of the restios and reeds - venturing out for a few seconds only. When a large stretch of water has to be negotiated - it is at great speed!! You only get a fleeting sighting! They are also crepuscular in nature. [Usually seen early morning or late afternoon]
So - photography was difficult. Mark Brown commented later, that ‘in-hand’ the birds are not that different in size, so could be easily taken to be the same size in the field.

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