As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday 3 March 2019

Louisiana scientists hunt for elusive marsh bird before its habitat sinks under the sea

By Tristan Baurick | Posted February 13, 2019 at 06:00 AM | Updated February 13, 2019 at 02:46 PM
CAMERON PARISH – On a late-winter night, a small group of mosquito-bitten scientists and college students drag paint cans full of BBs and bolts through a remote marsh south of Lake Charles. With spotlights and fishing nets at the ready, they take high steps over tangles of long grass, hoping the clattering will flush out their quarry—a red-eyed, sparrow-sized bird that few people have ever seen.
Three hours into the march, as expectations fade and leg muscles start to quake, someone yells the two words the surveyors have been waiting to hear. 
“Black rail!”
Jonathon Lueck, a bearded graduate student in a raccoon-skin cap, drops the dragline of cans and races after the bird. It flies a few yards, then falls back to the safety of the grass, where it lives in an underworld of tunnels and hideouts. Lueck swings his net and misses. He tries cupping his hands over the wily rail, but it slips from his fingers. Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana’s director of bird conservation, catches up and drops his net in the nick of time. 
“Wooo,” Johnson yells. He scoops up the rail and holds it gently for all to see its dappled, gunmetal-gray feathers. “The bird that doesn’t exist.” 
‘In desperate straits’
For most ornithologists and birders, black rails are near-mythical creatures. They’re shy around people, tend to come out only at night, and rarely fly. They also live deep within remote wetlands around North America, making it tough for researchers to gain more than a basic grasp on the species. But that’s starting to change along the Gulf Coast, where Johnson and Audubon Louisiana are collecting one of the continent’s richest pools of data on the elusive bird. 

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