Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

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Reptiluvr
Posts: 258
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm

Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by Reptiluvr »

I will be working as a technician on a project studying King Rails (Rallus elegans) at Mackay Island NWR. The habitat used to be salt marsh but has recently (1830) been cut off from salt water and has become fresh. Many of the plants are still salt marsh plants with some freshwater marsh plants taking hold. The study is looking at home range, nesting success, brood rearing and genetics. The King Rail here are incredibly plentiful, but are proving hard to trap.
Image
King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr
Image
King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr
Image
King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr
Image
King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

In 3 weeks I have found 101 species of birds! Here are photos of some:
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Canada Goose eggs by photographerp, on Flickr
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Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) by photographerp, on Flickr
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Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) by photographerp, on Flickr
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Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) by photographerp, on Flickr
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Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) by photographerp, on Flickr
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Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) by photographerp, on Flickr
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Purple Martin (Prognes subis) by photographerp, on Flickr

Also seen:
Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Snow Goose (incl. Blue Morph), Ruddy Duck, American Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, American Bittern, Green Heron
White Ibis, Glossy Ibis
Sora, American Coot, Common Gallinule
Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier
Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture
Great Horned Owl
Whip-poor-will
Belted Kingfisher
Marsh Wren, Sedge Wren, Carolina Wren
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Towhee
European Starling
Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting
Grey Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher
Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Brown-headed Cowbird
Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse
Northern Bobwhite, Helmeted Guineafowl (domesticated)
Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher
Common Tern, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Brown-headed Nuthatch

User avatar
chrish
Posts: 3295
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX
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Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by chrish »

Do the rails hybridize there? I am always very wary of King Rail sightings in the fresh water ponds on the Texas Coast. I'm sure they are there, but I am also pretty sure there are hybrids.

Reptiluvr
Posts: 258
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm

Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by Reptiluvr »

There are no Clapper Rails here. The area used to be salt marsh but around 1830 a hurricane closed off the nearest inlet. Influence from rivers has allowed fresh water to encroach entirely. Most of the plants are still salt marsh species, but the water is well within the fresh water salinity levels. All King Rails at this site.

Matt Buckingham
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Joined: October 1st, 2012, 11:51 am
Location: Houston, TX
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Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by Matt Buckingham »

Sweet!

Rallids are my favorite group. I worked with all three species of Rallus up in the Chesapeake Bay and Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.

RE: Hybrids, that's a hot topic now for sure. I spoke at great length with folks out of LSU who have been studying the contact zone in coastal marshes a couple of years ago at the AOU meeting. Genetic analyses indicate that hybridization does occur frequently, but the contact zone is fairly small, and restricted to brackish marsh.

I worked at Anahuac NWR for a while, and having a personal interest in Rallids I spent some time observing this for my own edification. I felt confident that nearly all birds observed in the refuge's fresh water marshes were Kings, primarily based on vocalization, but to a degree based on plumage cues as well. It's a bit tricker in Texas because our Clappers are brighter, and plumage-wise more similar to Kings than their conspecifics on the East Coast. But the vocalizations really are clearly different, especially when you multiple individuals vocalizing in a given day.

On another note, the same researchers from LSU suggest that what we call Rallus longirostris is really paraphyletic, maybe not so surprising for a relatively immobile bird with such a wide range.

Reptiluvr
Posts: 258
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm

Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by Reptiluvr »

Rallids have quickly become one of my favorite groups. I have now seen quite a few. We got a couple Clapper Rail migrants, some Virginia Rails that seem to be sticking around and we have had two sightings in the same spot of what might be a Black Rail. I'm pretty sure of it but I'd like to hear a vocalization to be certain rather than confident.
The grad student here talks to the LSU group frequently, gathering info on research methods and such. One of them actually works at the same university now but in the geology dept.

Reptiluvr
Posts: 258
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm

Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by Reptiluvr »

Our close association with nest monitoring has granted me some excellent behavior to photograph.
Image
King Rail double wing display by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail double wing display by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail nest (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail hatchlings (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail hatchlings (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

Lifer Clapper Rail
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Clapper Rail-Mackay Island NWR NC-05-05-2013-Jeff Lemons-6386 by photographerp, on Flickr

Lifer Virginia Rail
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Lifer Virginia Rail (Rallus limicolus) by photographerp, on Flickr

I have found 142 species at the refuge thus far (copy & pasted from eBird):

Alphabetic Taxonomic Location S/P Date
1 Snow Goose Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
2 Canada Goose Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
3 Tundra Swan Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
4 Wood Duck Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
5 Gadwall Mackay Island NWR US-NC 07 May 2013
6 American Wigeon Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
7 American Black Duck Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
8 Mallard Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
9 Blue-winged Teal Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
10 Northern Shoveler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
11 Northern Pintail Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
12 Green-winged Teal Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
13 Ring-necked Duck Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
14 Lesser Scaup Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Jun 2013
15 Hooded Merganser Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
16 Red-breasted Merganser Mackay Island NWR US-NC 04 May 2013
17 Ruddy Duck Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
18 Northern Bobwhite Mackay Island NWR US-NC 18 Apr 2013
19 Common Loon Mackay Island NWR US-NC 26 Apr 2013
20 Pied-billed Grebe Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
21 Horned Grebe Mackay Island NWR US-NC 29 Apr 2013
22 Double-crested Cormorant Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
23 American White Pelican Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Jun 2013
24 American Bittern Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
25 Least Bittern Mackay Island NWR US-NC 15 Apr 2013
26 Great Blue Heron Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
27 Great Egret Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
28 Snowy Egret Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
29 Little Blue Heron Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
30 Tricolored Heron Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
31 Cattle Egret Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
32 Green Heron Mackay Island NWR US-NC 06 Apr 2013
33 White Ibis Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
34 Glossy Ibis Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
35 Black Vulture Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
36 Turkey Vulture Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
37 Osprey Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
38 Northern Harrier Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
39 Bald Eagle Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
40 Red-tailed Hawk Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
41 Black Rail Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 May 2013
42 Clapper Rail Mackay Island NWR US-NC 24 Apr 2013
43 King Rail Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
44 Virginia Rail Mackay Island NWR US-NC 24 Apr 2013
45 Sora Mackay Island NWR US-NC 05 Apr 2013
46 Common Gallinule Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
47 American Coot Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
48 Black-bellied Plover Mackay Island NWR US-NC 18 Apr 2013
49 Semipalmated Plover Mackay Island NWR US-NC 30 Apr 2013
50 Killdeer Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
51 Black-necked Stilt Mackay Island NWR US-NC 14 May 2013
52 Spotted Sandpiper Mackay Island NWR US-NC 24 Apr 2013
53 Solitary Sandpiper Mackay Island NWR US-NC 29 Apr 2013
54 Greater Yellowlegs Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
55 Willet Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 May 2013
56 Lesser Yellowlegs Mackay Island NWR US-NC 04 Apr 2013
57 Whimbrel Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
58 Semipalmated Sandpiper Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 May 2013
59 Western Sandpiper Mackay Island NWR US-NC 30 Apr 2013
60 Least Sandpiper Mackay Island NWR US-NC 25 Apr 2013
61 Dunlin Mackay Island NWR US-NC 25 Apr 2013
62 Long-billed Dowitcher Mackay Island NWR US-NC 18 Apr 2013
63 Wilson's Snipe Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
64 Laughing Gull Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
65 Ring-billed Gull Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
66 Great Black-backed Gull Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 May 2013
67 Common Tern Mackay Island NWR US-NC 18 Apr 2013
68 Forster's Tern Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
69 Royal Tern Mackay Island NWR US-NC 15 Apr 2013
70 Mourning Dove Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
71 Yellow-billed Cuckoo Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
72 Great Horned Owl Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
73 Common Nighthawk Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
74 Chuck-will's-widow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 24 Apr 2013
75 Eastern Whip-poor-will Mackay Island NWR US-NC 19 Apr 2013
76 Chimney Swift Mackay Island NWR US-NC 07 May 2013
77 Ruby-throated Hummingbird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 23 Apr 2013
78 Belted Kingfisher Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
79 Red-headed Woodpecker Mackay Island NWR US-NC 25 Apr 2013
80 Red-bellied Woodpecker Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
81 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
82 Downy Woodpecker Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
83 Northern Flicker Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
84 Pileated Woodpecker Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
85 American Kestrel Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
86 Eastern Wood-Pewee Mackay Island NWR US-NC 16 May 2013
87 Eastern Phoebe Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
88 Great Crested Flycatcher Mackay Island NWR US-NC 16 Apr 2013
89 Eastern Kingbird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 Apr 2013
90 White-eyed Vireo Mackay Island NWR US-NC 26 Apr 2013
91 Blue Jay Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
92 American Crow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
93 Fish Crow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 15 Apr 2013
94 Purple Martin Mackay Island NWR US-NC 06 Apr 2013
95 Tree Swallow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
96 Barn Swallow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
97 Carolina Chickadee Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
98 Tufted Titmouse Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 Apr 2013
99 Brown-headed Nuthatch Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
100 House Wren Mackay Island NWR US-NC 25 Apr 2013
101 Sedge Wren Mackay Island NWR US-NC 14 Apr 2013
102 Marsh Wren Mackay Island NWR US-NC 07 Apr 2013
103 Carolina Wren Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
104 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
105 Eastern Bluebird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
106 American Robin Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
107 Gray Catbird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 16 Apr 2013
108 Northern Mockingbird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
109 Brown Thrasher Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
110 European Starling Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
111 Cedar Waxwing Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
112 Black-and-white Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 May 2013
113 Prothonotary Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 27 Apr 2013
114 Common Yellowthroat Mackay Island NWR US-NC 05 Apr 2013
115 American Redstart Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 May 2013
116 Northern Parula Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 Apr 2013
117 Yellow Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
118 Blackpoll Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
119 Palm Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
120 Pine Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
121 Yellow-rumped Warbler Mackay Island NWR US-NC 02 Apr 2013
122 Eastern Towhee Mackay Island NWR US-NC 06 Apr 2013
123 Chipping Sparrow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 03 Apr 2013
124 Field Sparrow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 28 Apr 2013
125 Savannah Sparrow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
126 Song Sparrow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
127 Swamp Sparrow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
128 White-throated Sparrow Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
129 Dark-eyed Junco Mackay Island NWR US-NC 01 Apr 2013
130 Summer Tanager Mackay Island NWR US-NC 05 May 2013
131 Northern Cardinal Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
132 Blue Grosbeak Mackay Island NWR US-NC 10 Apr 2013
133 Indigo Bunting Mackay Island NWR US-NC 16 Apr 2013
134 Bobolink Mackay Island NWR US-NC 12 May 2013
135 Red-winged Blackbird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
136 Eastern Meadowlark Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
137 Common Grackle Mackay Island NWR US-NC 15 Apr 2013
138 Boat-tailed Grackle Mackay Island NWR US-NC 31 Mar 2013
139 Brown-headed Cowbird Mackay Island NWR US-NC 11 Apr 2013
140 Orchard Oriole Mackay Island NWR US-NC 18 Apr 2013
141 House Finch Mackay Island NWR US-NC 07 May 2013
142 American Goldfinch Mackay Island NWR US-NC 27 Apr 2013

User avatar
pete
Posts: 745
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:11 pm
Location: cape cod ma.

Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by pete »

Those are some amazing pictures!! Rails aren't the easiest birds to observe! I'm jealous of your job there!!

Reptiluvr
Posts: 258
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm

Re: Mackay Island NWR - Knotts Island, NC

Post by Reptiluvr »

Here's the last of my photos from the King Rail project. It was a blast getting to see these birds up close and know them intimately. I monitored one nest that I found the day before eggs were laid until the chicks hatched! Most of the time we found them late in laying stage or in incubation. The majority of my photos are observations of this nest defense display. I found one author describe this display in Virginia Rails as "swanning" (Kaufmann 1980-something).
Image
King Rail grunting (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail grunting (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail grunting (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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King Rail nest defense by photographerp, on Flickr

Image
King Rail nest defense by photographerp, on Flickr

Image
King Rail nest defense by photographerp, on Flickr

Image
King Rail chicks (Rallus elegans) by photographerp, on Flickr

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