Face to face with Buff-banded Rail

Buff-banded Rails are bold little beauties on Lord Howe Island, quite different from the secretive specimens I’m used to catching glimpses of as they dart into hiding on the mainland. They were most active during the early morning and in the evenings when the light was poorest and they twitched and scurried as usual which was not good for photography, but they were more comfortable in the open than I’ve seen previously.

 Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 200mm

 

I often delete face to face images but this one made me smile. The rail above emerged from the undergrowth and stared directly at the camera while I was flat out on the dewy morning grass, I wonder what it was thinking. I particularly like the image of the rail from this angle; its puffy little chipmunk-cheeks look ridiculously cute.

 

Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 370mm

 

The rail drank from a stream of water coming from a tiny hole in the water tank. From the images I took it’s clear that the ‘stream’ of water was actually a series of droplets which the rail would catch with its long tongue, there are a couple of smaller droplets falling from its bill in the image above. The species is named for the obvious buff band around its chest but its other markings are quite distinctive too, especially its light grey eyebrow, rich chestnut facial markings, barred front, speckled back, strong pinkish bill and red eye.

 

Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 370mm

 

Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 160, focal length 400mm

 

Rails prefer to be amongst or near dense undergrowth or reeds but venture into the open to forage for a wide range of items including seeds, fruit, insects, molluscs and carrion. The out of focus grass and ground covers in the images above show how low to the ground I was. It was far damper than I had realised and I was soaked when I finally got up. I’d injured a rib the previous day and although I’d been able to get down onto the ground pretty easily I couldn’t get back up without help. I was off the beaten track so was glad that Glenn eventually came looking for me!

Happy birding, Kim

 

 

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