Salas compared it to trying to stand on the highest hill around, and maybe you find one where you’re standing there, looking out and you can’t see any other hills that are any higher, so you’ve got the right place! Through 1915, according to Save the Bay, the California Clapper Rail was a menu delicacy. Book researcher, freelance writer, and photographer Ingrid Taylar was on hand in January 2009, when a US Geological Survey team from the Western Ecological Research Center arrived to band and radio-tag the remaining thousand or so California Clapper Rails in the Bay Area. The California clapper rail measures 13–19 inches from bill to tail. Female, he whispers. These marsh invaders were members of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center -- the researchers responsible for The Ecology of California Clapper Rails studies in the San Francisco Bay Area. ###A version of this article appeared on, January 13, 2009.All photos © Ingrid Taylar, unless otherwise noted. A clapper rail might be present in the vicinity and make itself known, but not be heard. Your average listener can maybe tell you they heard the roar of a diesel engine traveling through space and time. So immobile! The Clapper Rail that finally succumbs to capture finds itself under a net, then briefly in hand, before being transferred to a pet carrier for safety. Black rail. Other rails, gallinules and coots. To estimate pre-1870 population, he used a description from an Army colonel to estimate number of bison per acre in a herd, and then multiplied that by the total acreage of the herd to get a conservative estimate of 4 million animals in the herd. Later, he would push a global population estimate of 15 million. Product description. In the moment, his head rises sharply. 0:00 / Clapper rail (call) call. The California Clapper Rail is one of the largest rails. From that you get a multiplier, a rough idea for each cell of how much or how little you should add to your observed numbers, and even a way to estimate how many rails there were in the areas no one visited. The California clapper rail is bold, gregarious, and beloved. Appearance. It’s this laughing, rattling, and clapping bird call that gives the Clapper Rail its name, and it does sound a bit like they’re laughing at something. But the birds are slippery evaders. Lots of traffic noise interfering. The Clapper Rail is usually hidden in dense cover, but sometimes we see it stalking boldly along the muddy edge of the marsh, twitching its short tail as it walks, or swimming across a tidal creek. A truck rumbles over the river bridge on nearby State Route 37. The population levels of the California Clapper Rail are precariously low due to destruction of its coastal and estuarine marshland habitat by prior land development and shoreline fill. . The binary nature of a count slides over a quantum wobble: What happens if you are there, listening for 10 minutes, and you don’t hear anything? Follow. It is also, like the chicken, high in character. She and Wood know, and I learn later, that detections tend to decrease both toward the end of the season and toward the end of the time in the marsh. American coot. This is where Nur’s expertise comes in. Mostly, you see fish only when they’re caught … So, you see, if you study fish populations, you tend to get little pieces of information here and there. At the front of the boat, Wood’s colleague Megan Elrod grabs a clipboard and stands up. Photo by Jon Backus. Stillness settles in around the boat as the bridge traffic subsides. April 2013] The Clapper Rail is commonly found on the East Coast; however, the Californian subspecies is classified as "Endangered" and populations are under threat due to habitat loss. July 6, 2018. Birds connect us with the joy and wonder of nature. Fog still hangs heavy over the river; there’s been no sunrise to speak of, just a slow fade from black to gray. A marsh is a freeway of noises, trucks downshifting and Priuses gliding and motorcycles blatting, and it takes attention and awareness to sort the noises and describe what’s going on. The marsh sprawls out, the river winds into the distance, and Wood, from the driver’s seat, says the little inlet that we explored — an expanse of low vegetation that felt to me, in the low light of morning, like some unexplored reach of the Amazon — is too small to even have a name. Fortunately, there’s a data set of 15 different physical characteristics that’s available for every single bit of marshland in the entire Bay Area. The Clapper can control one or two appliances at the same time. CALIFORNIA CLAPPER RAIL/Ridgwa... ️Best Price Guaranteed ️Simple licensing. Researchers can then track and follow the rail's movements to assess its range, its numbers, its life hazards, and also determine the best way to trim away at spartina growth while at the same time retaining critical cover for the Clapper Rails. It is found principally in California's San Francisco Bay to southern Baja California.A member of the rail family, Rallidae, it is a chicken-sized bird that rarely flies. “The clapper rails are the first to start calling. You don’t understand how loud they are. You have to know what you are listening for. call. You make it — or rather, Nur and Salas make it — into something slightly more than zero. “I’m not one of those birders,” he says, “but I was in the spot where one of those would hang out at the time they would hang out.”. A clapper rail might be present in the vicinity of the counter, but not make itself known. You have to know why you are listening for it. It has, if not the substance, the essence of the great explorations; it is not hard to imagine this is what Charles Darwin must have felt as he chased his own weird birds across Patagonia. A chilling wind rolls a long, steady line of swells under the boat. The California clapper rail is not just secretive; it is quite rare. There’s a process in statistics called logistic regression — itself only fully developed in the 1970s — that will take all these variables and consider the relationship of each in turn to the probability of detection, and then take each of those individual relationships to consider all of them at once. It is not. It's a wonder he could hustle for his shots, but he could. Its great tragedy, like the chicken’s, is tastiness: predators, humans in the Gold Rush era included, find the clapper rail delectable. A stopwatch alarm beeps, unnaturally harshly, dee-dee-dee-dee-dee. “It’s kind of an ackackack-rrrrrrr, a little purr at the end.”. The California Ridgeway’s Rail (formerly Clapper Rail) or Rallus longirostris obsoletus is one of the most endangered birds in California.. Santa Venetia Marsh Open Space Preserve is a fragile salt water marsh ecosystem in North San Rafael. Wood, Elrod, McBroom, Evens, and all of the other counters: they have been rising at 4 a.m. and standing quietly in the dark for a very long time. Gray-brown pickleweed banks, dotted with cordgrass, close in rapidly. var layer = new L.StamenTileLayer("terrain"); var map = new L.Map("map-marsh", {center: new L.LatLng(38.118097, -122.507525),zoom: 12}); map.addLayer(layer);var marker = L.marker([38.118097, -122.507525]).addTo(map);marker.bindPopup("A Marsh on the Petaluma River
The 18-mile winding path of the Petaluma River supports the largest ancient tidal marsh in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as thousands of acres of restored wetlands. Elrod slips her beanie off of her ears, the better to hear, and then, facing the marsh, she listens for the distinctive call of the endangered California clapper rail. In all the pre-trip excitement about sunrise and fog and mud boots, I discover, I have forgotten to really wonder what a clapper rail sounds like. There was an office development planned for the wetland south of the Greenbrae Boardwalk, and Marin Audubon was concerned about the clapper rails. If you listen to classical music, it all sounds the same at first, then you get familiar with it and can tell Beethoven from Bach. It is a subspecies of the common clapper rail, Rallus longirostris, and to keep it sorted the famed 19th-century Smithsonian ornithologist Robert Ridgway appended the subspecies name obsoletus: the long-nosed, obsolete rail. It becomes a lifestyle, Evens says. There are only about 1,500 California Clapper Rails left, and most of the shorebirds reside around San Francisco Bay. Over tens of thousands of observations, and thousands of zeroes, those calculations give us the power to lift the veil on the secretive California clapper rail. Rain makes rails and researchers grumpy. In the same way raptors are calmed by the head cover of a falcon hood, the rail is soothed with a head scarf . With marshes and wetlands reduced in scope, land predators such as foxes could more easily reach the rails, whose numbers came to an all-time low of around 500. They are found in the salt marshes of Morro Bay and San Francisco bay. If you believe it would be good to know how many there are, you understand that someone, somehow, must count them. “I think one of the roosters is dying over there,” Elrod says, sitting down. “The sounds we’re listening for can be even quieter than your arm moving.”. At the time, there were an estimated 4,000 clapper rails around the Bay; by the early 1990s some estimates put the number at 300. Purple gallinule. Wood reanimates as he leans forward into a hand-held GPS unit. This model combines the detection model with a new set of math to estimate abundance, based on detection probability and a new set of variables about the marsh itself. “I love the little things, I love hearing them call,” says Grijalva, now a PhD student in ecosystem sciences at UC Davis. To do all this in one formula would be impossible. The story of the clapper rails nests in the story of the marshes. But it’s worth taking a stab at it — if you have some reason to do so, something you want to determine, as Nur says. The large Clapper Rail is abundant in saltwater marshes and mangrove swamps from the U.S. East Coast to Central America and the Caribbean. Despite this wide range, numbers of the Clapper Rail are now very low on the United States' west coast, because of destruction of the coastal marshland habitat. The field biology that Julian Wood and Megan Elrod conduct is a comforting cultural ritual. In a chapter called “The Completeness of the Extermination,” Hornaday then turned his attention to generating a modern number. California clapper rail at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Except, he says, what if your view only encompasses 270 degrees and you forgot to look behind you? The surveys, turned into data, turned into analysis, have shown that after an average of 15-17 years (to let the plants grow high), clapper rails enthusiastically move back into restored tidal wetlands. Then what do you make of a zero? Just as Jules Evens and his colleagues were able to refine the sophistication of how to count a clapper rail, Nadav Nur and his colleagues have been able to refine the sophistication of the census by zeroing in on two central problems in estimating the population of secretive marsh birds: 1. This story was originally published in the 1991 Summer issue of Tideline, the newsletter of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex newsletter. The process becomes a series of throwing the net, missing, then waiting for a chance to repeat. This smooth cordgrass overtakes and colonizes sensitive habitat areas, to the detriment of shorebirds and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). Birders and photographers regularly descend upon Arrowhead Marsh, searching the shores and sloughs for the area’s diverse bird life. Wood swivels noiselessly in my direction, makes eye contact with me, and nods. A clattering cackle in the salt marsh is often our first clue to the presence of this big rail. “Then we’ll be there.”. The largest population of the western subspecies, California Clapper Rail, R. l. obsoletus, numbering something under 3000 birds, is in San Francisco Bay; there is a small inland population along the Colorado River. One of them is what you’d call a “true” zero: A clapper rail might not be present in the marsh. It is not the only reason to pursue the oft-mentioned target of 100,000 acres of marsh ringing the estuary (although it would be disspiriting to restore so much of the clapper rail’s habitat and lose the rail). (See photo above) Once flushed, they can frequently be approached. We will probably still be counting clapper rails then, because you cannot conserve what you cannot count. One does not, of course, just show up and start counting endangered clapper rails, just as one does not just show up and start mashing buttons at a nuclear reactor. A bison is either there or it is not, and it is hard to mistake “present” for “absent.” If there is a bison in your living room, you will be a reliable reporter on the matter. The best method Evens and Page knew of to identify and count clapper rails was to hear them at dawn and at dusk, when the rails were most active, so that’s what they proposed: a year, in the marsh, listening, pointing, and recording. Additional and significant pressures came from human development and encroachment, drained wetlands, and increased terrestrial predation. “They’re furtive. He turns to me. Set the dial to Home or Away. This wetland is situated in a habitat migration corridor and hosts a variety of shore birds, including the endangered California Ridgeway’s (Clapper) Rail. “Preliminary findings indicate that timing of island use by Clapper Rails tends to coincide with timing of diurnal high tides, suggesting that the artificial floating islands are being used as a refugia at times when the marsh is mostly or completely inundated.” The studies suggest that refugia, including elevated islands, will be key in future habitat management endeavors. (13-19 inches) It looks like chicken with a long, slightly downward-curving bill. It is 32-47 cm from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail. “One of us would take a tape deck or cassette deck, hide it out in the marsh, so one of us would know where it was and one of us would be at a station having to estimate the distance,” Evens says. The fraternity of clapper-rail counters is close enough that once you get the permit, you’re allowed to teach others, and the main barrier to entry is that you have to hear a rail, in the company of your permitter, on at least 10 trips. Years ago, as they started to really tease out the secretive marsh bird story, Salas and Nur worked to find those appropriate explanatory variables. ").openPopup();map.scrollWheelZoom.disable(); The California clapper rail is a largish, brownish endangered marsh bird with carrot-stick legs and a long, glowing-orange bill. This secretive bird lives most of its life concealed in dense vegetation. Once you get tuned into nature’s symphony, it becomes self-perpetuating.”, As Page and Evens tuned into the rails, they then had to learn to estimate where the rails were, based on the sound. That’s great.”, “One of our sites is at SFO,” she continues. Three carefully controlled visits to each site means context and confidence for a statistician. An hour after sunrise, two hours into one of the 90 marsh visits he’ll make in the first four months of 2014, Julian Wood runs the Zodiac slowly into an exposed marsh bank on the west side of the Petaluma River. “Obsolete” makes the clapper rail sound pathetic, or fragile, or obstructionist: an endangered marsh relic from a bygone era forcing us by the nuisance of its continued existence into treading lightly around the edges of the Bay. The hunt for the clapper rail is on. Clapper Rail. Then the rooster goes off again. “We do these analyses, which are relatively complex, because we’re trying to do things like not just go out and count birds and things,” Nur says.