The limpkin (Aramus guarauna), also called carrao, courlan, and crying bird, is a bird that looks like a large rail but is skeletally closer to cranes. It is the only extant species in the genus Aramus and the family Aramidae. It is found mostly in wetlands in warm parts of the Americas, from Florida to northern Argentina. It feeds on molluscs, with the diet dominated by apple snails of the genus Pomacea. Its name derives from its seeming limp when it walks.
But I am getting ahead of myself. First a couple pics from earlier this week. I have been going to the North End of WB in the evenings after work to decompress. Its been a while since I have seen Ring-billed Gulls, or at least it seems that way, so when I saw this gull I was secretly hoping it was a Mew Gull. Of course it wasn't.
Local Birds - I believe some type of Peep. Maybe of the Adams subtype.
I did make a couple trips to the Fort Fisher Spit too, but nothing out of the ordinary.
This Gull-billed Tern chick was begging, but the adult was ignoring him. Time to fend for yourself now chickie.
Yesterday evening my buddy Dave W called and reported that the Upland Sandpipers were at the observation field at ILM. So naturally I high-tailed it over and set up the scope from my truck bed. It did not take long to find the Lockness Monster of the bird world.
These Upland Sandpipers were far off, a couple hundred yards at least. However, my digiscoping rig did the job for a diagnostic picture. Very strange that they are so wary of humans yet they hang out in fields next to an active runway. Planes were roaring past them and they did not seem bothered. I guess they know the planes are not a threat when they are in the field.
A Loggerhead Shrike perched on the fence so I practiced some shots with my digiscoping set up.
The pictures come out very different based on the eye cup positioning and of course the zoom.
As I was admiring the masked bandit, I noticed the Uplands were in a bit closer and the sun glare was not as bad.
Upland Sandpiper - now do you see the Lochness genetics?
So back to the protagonist of this post - Limpkin.
I knew I would never make it to Lake Norman in time to get him yesterday, plus I had a ton of telecons for work. So in the evening after the Uplands, I loaded my kayak on my truck and prepped for an early morning departure. Is 3 am early or late? I managed to make it to the Kayak launch at a little before 8am and after an uneventful launch I quickly found the cove in question on the Catawba River. How did I know it was the cove? Because Dwayne and Jeff and friends (was nice to see John H again) were standing on the river bank with a line of scopes pointed in the direction of the cove. Since I was the only one in a kayak or any watercraft for that matter I set off to explore the cove.
I found multiple Little Blue Herons, some Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and even two immature White Ibis. There was tons of Killdeer vocalizing and I even saw a group of Wild Turkey. Kingfisher pairs were staked out every hundred yards or so. Ospreys thick as flies on a corpse. However, no Limpkin!
Immature Little Blue
I circled back to Dwayne and company and they also had not seen the Limpkin. However, Dwayne had one more trick up his sleeve. He knew of another cove with suitable habitat about 1/4 mile up river under a train trestle. I did not want to fail after such a long drive so off I went. 1/4 mile turned into closer to a mile up river but I found the trestle and went under. The habitat was great, looked like Florida. I tried the left finger, there was nothing but more Herons so I checked the right finger (really a creek) and nothing there either. Then I tried the middle finger (the middle finger should always be the last resort). BINGO! A Limpkin was sitting there just begging me to crush him.
I took a couple strokes with my paddle and stowed it in my rigging thinking it would bring me within decent photo range.
Well I kept snapping pics, but there must have been a current or slight wind or maybe just momentum, and before I knew it I was floating to within 15 feet of the bird. I was kind of torn between getting my paddle out and back paddling to give some distance or just sitting quietly and hoping I was not disturbing it by being so close.
Well the bird did not seem to care one bit. He was preening and looking away from me as if he was not worried at all. Probably he has spent some time on Florida golf courses.
My kayak kept creeping up the little channel closer and closer. I reasoned that getting my paddle out would be even more disruptive.
I ended up with the bow of my kayak within 5 feet of the bird and he still was not worried in the least. Luckily the water was shallow at this point and my forward progress stopped. I just sat there watching him/her and he/she did the same with some time spent preening.
How do I know the bird was not phased? Well unless this scratch was a nervous tick, he seemed to not be worried at all.
I had better looks at this Limpkin than any I have seen in Florida.
Apparently Limpkins are so limp they can corkscrew 360 degrees.
Finally I had the courage to un-stow my paddle and start a backwards paddle away from this beautiful creature. He surprisingly just sat there watching.
The paddle back was long and hot but I was on cloud 9 and the drive home seemed much shorter than the drive in.