Citizen Science: Rail Release and Survey at Buena Vista Lagoon

A group of agency officials and BVAS members gathered along the Nature Center trail in early July to participate in the release of three endangered Ridgway’s Rails.  Each had a tiny radio transmitter affixed to its back. Upon release, the rails quickly disappeared into the cattails and the team tracked their movement by honing in to the beeping signals emitting from the transmitters.  The next morning, and much to the delight of the survey team, one of the rails was found foraging in the reeds on the edge of the new wetlands property BVAS had purchased in January.

Things went smoothly until Day 5.  The signal from one of the rails was lost.  The team searched the entire Buena Vista Lagoon, even using a car-top antenna to survey other nearby lagoons and coastal wetlands.  All efforts proved fruitless. The fear was that the rail had met with misfortune, but a more optimistic view was adopted: our rail is happily foraging, transmitter-free and undetected, in the reeds around the Central Basin of the lagoon.

Another of the rail’s signals stayed strong but seemed to stop moving. Another mystery!  Perhaps the transmitter was dislodged. The rail, meanwhile, may have joined its similarly off-grid cousin on their undetectable meanderings around the lagoon.

Our third rail, bless its heart, is still rewarding the survey team by maintaining a small territory in the vicinity of the trail bridge on the Nature Center loop trail.  A rail has been spotted crossing over the trail on a number of occasions, and a calling rail is often heard during the periods near dawn and dusk.  It’s difficult to say whether these sightings and calls are from our released rail or from another that was already present.  Either way, it’s a good omen.



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