Monday, June 10, 2013

Episode 165 (6-10-13): Virginia Rails in Sound and Music (featuring "Virginia Rail Reel" by Timothy Seaman)

Click to listen to episode (2:41).


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 10, 2013.

This week, we feature another mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 10 seconds, and see if you can guess what’s making these clicking and chirping sounds.  And here’s a hint: this creature shares its name with pioneer fences and the track of an iron horse.  After the sound, enjoy about 35 seconds of an instrumental tune done by a Virginia composer in honor of the sound-maker.


If you guessed a Virginia Rail, you’re right, and you won’t be surprised to hear that the music was “Virginia Rail Reel,” by Timothy Seaman on the 2004 CD, “Virginia Wildlife.”  It’s questionable whether the expression “thin as a rail” refers to the bird family of rails, of which nine species are normally found in Virginia.  But there’s no question that rails’ thin bodies allow them to run, swim, feed, and nest within the dense grasses and other plants of saltwater and freshwater marshes.  From the Clapper Rail, to the Common Moorhen, to the Purple Gallinule, to the American Coot, rails have descriptive names, distinctive calls, and adaptations well-suited to marshy habitats.  Thanks to Lang Elliott and Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s sounds and music, respectively.


For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 6/10/13.]

Virginia Rail.  2010 photo by Dave Menke, courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library,, 6/10/13.

The sounds of the Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott, whose work is available online at and the “Music of Nature” Web site, (as of 6/10/13).

Music on the CD “Virginia Wildlife” is copyright 2004 by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  Mr. Seaman’s Web site is  The “Virginia Wildlife” CD was a collaboration between Mr. Seaman and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; for more information, visit


Information was taken from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ “Fish and Wildlife Information Service” Web page at; from Life in the Chesapeake Bay, by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), pp. 232-3; and from A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, by Chandler S. Robbins et al. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001).

Other sources of information on Virginia birds include the following:
*Virginia Society of Ornithology at

*Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” Web site at, and the “Birds of North America Online” Web site from the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists’ Union, online at (subscription required for this Web site).  Both Cornell sites include photos, distribution maps, recordings of calls, and ecological information on birds throughout the Western Hemisphere; a subscription is required to use the “Birds of North America Online” site.

*E-bird Web site at, maintained by the Cornell Lab and the Audubon Society.  Here you can find locations of species observations made by contributors, and you can sign up to contribute your own observations.

Recent Virginia Water News and Other Information
            For news, events, and resources relevant to Virginia's water resources, grouped into categories, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at