The following report came in to the Sitka Birds email List from Serena Wild today:
“Thought you all might be interested to know that there is a Virginia Rail at Swan Lake.
I live up at the very end of the lake and on Sunday my cat (a feral cat turned house cat, who hunts down in the swampy area) brought a Virginia Rail into the house. It was alive so I took it away from him and couldn’t find any signs of bites or any harm to the bird. I took it back down to the lake and it flew away into the bushes.”
This is the second report (first with photo) of a Virigina Rail in Sitka. The first was reported by Jen Cedarleaf and Kim Middleton at Starrigavan Estuary on 1 Jan 2006.
There are only a few other reports of this species from Southeast Alaska.
Virginia Rails are generally very good at staying out of sight, and given the location it was found (where no one would have been looking), it is entirely possible this bird has been around for a while.
With the lake frozen, access to the upper end is relatively easy, but walking around in the marshy area at the upper end of the lake is somewhat treacherous. There are many pockets where the water and/or mud is not solidly frozen.
If anyone does refind the bird, it would be great to hear about it.
Thanks to Serena Wild for the report and permission to use the photo!