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Last evening at about 6 pm when I was out atlassing at Berlin Pond with
a friend, we spied a male Virginia Rail looking about furtively at the
edge of the road just past the scrubby brush border on the east side of
the Brookfield Rd. that runs through the main marshy area--we were
headed toward the I-89 border.  Luckily, traffic of all kinds was light
because of the holiday.  My instincts told me to stop the car and edge
it a bit forward to create a blind for this bird who was becoming more
and more agitated, yearning toward the other side of the road that
hosted the less crowded part of the wetland.  As I did this, we saw a
few fuzzy black heads pop into the open, then back again as a car came
through the other way, its inhabitants noting the larger bird and my
Subaru blind with quizzical looks.  We quietly urged the male forward
with a whispered "all clear", and he vocalized sharply.  Immediately,
out popped the female and several black heads, and she tucked herself
together and shot across the road with the male and two chicks close to
their heels.  There was one other chick visible, but he stopped and
turned around toward the marsh where a couple of other heads were still
visible in the tall grass.  Just then, two Red-winged Blackbirds zoomed
down and began to harass them.  The chick at the road's edge held its
ground while the others darted back out of sight.  It turned and held
firm against the blackbirds who fluttered around and came down again.
Still, the chick stood tall and would not give any ground.  Finally, the
larger birds lost interest, and the chick puffed itself up at the border
of the road and called to its siblings.  One by one they emerged into a
clump, their heads bobbing in anticipation--we could see two or three
more.  Chick #1 leaned out in the road and took a couple of steps, and
two others came out behind him.  They took a few tentative steps, unable
to hear the cacaphony of hissing "go--go--go!!!!" from the Subaru
blind.  Then, they took off, all three--wait...
four--wait...five--wait...six in all! As they dropped into the border of
the marsh on the other side, celebratory "oinks" could be heard coming
from under cover.   An important lesson of independence and survival had
been successfully taught, and one very tiny little ball of black fluff
seemed a little larger than the others as it huddled up to follow the
adults to a safe haven for the night.

Paula Gills
Brookfield