Birding ‘The Muck’

One of the birding gems in Tioga County is the State Gamelands 313, better known to birders as “The Muck.” Formerly drained and farmed, it has now been allowed to return to its original state as a highly productive wetland. Specialties that can be found in ‘the muck’ include Marsh Wrens, American Bittern, Sora, Virginia Rail and possibly even a King Rail.

One great thing about birding ‘the muck’  is that there is a bird blind set up in the middle of some open water, giving you great views of Marsh Wrens chattering about in the cattails and rails working the edges of the vegetation.

We spent an evening canoeing around ‘the muck’ last week, putting in as the sun was setting. One thing I noticed immediately was that Purple Loosestrife was everywhere. I had never visited the muck this late in the summer so it might always be like this.

The only rails we heard were Virginia Rails, but we managed to see a few. We came across two adults, the juvenile in the photo below as well as two fluffy black chicks.

It was dark by the time we pulled out of ‘the muck’ and the rails were still sounding off occasionally. We spent some time listening for American Bittern but didn’t have any luck there.

photos © Justine Weber