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September 8, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Sora Rail

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a birding field trip to a nearby State Park followed by brunch and some bird conversation. This was a small, experienced group of birders so I was hoping to see birds I don’t usually find on my solitary walks.

One of the tricks to locating birds in the field is to know their call. I still need work in that area but the people I was with were able to identify elusive birds by their sound. One of those birds was the Sora Rail, a water bird found in freshwater marshes. It likes to hide among the cattails, making it very difficult to observe or photograph.

We were standing on a bridge over the wetlands when we heard the Sora’s distinctive call. Everyone ran to the railing trying to locate the bird. Suddenly it poked it’s head out of the grass and one of the group spotted it, but the bird soon moved back into the cattails.

Sora Rail
We continued listening for the sound, which is a very distinctive, descending whinny call. Eventually the Sora came out into the open again for a few minutes. Most of us threw caution to the wind and climbed the fence along the bridge to get a good look and take a few photos. I should have taken a some pictures of everyone climbing the fence because it was quite a site to see, but in my excitement over finding an elusive bird, I stayed up on the fence watching the Sora and shooting pictures as long as possible.

Sora Rail

There must have been a tasty morsel of food in that green water to entice him out for a minute or so allowing me to get a great shot.

The Sora can be found across most of North America in the summer and they migrate to the southern US and Mexico in the winter. They are a common bird, but live and breed in shallow wetlands with lots of emergent vegetation. Their greatest threat is the destruction of the freshwater marshes and are rarely seen in populated areas.
 


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.

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30 Comments

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  1. Louise / Sep 8 2012 2:37 am

    What a treat Leslie, your day sounds lovely. It’s always great to see a new bird- I got to see some this week. I know how difficult bird calls are to learn, they do help so much though.

    Like

  2. Trish / Sep 8 2012 5:22 am

    I’ve never seen one of those before. What an interesting looking bird; he has such a short stubby tail!

    Like

  3. Mary / Sep 8 2012 6:04 am

    Does your birding group offer instruction for learning birdcalls? I would imagine it takes a while to learn them!

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 9 2012 9:54 am

      The club doesn’t have any formal instructions but they do organize about 100 local field trips a year, most of them led by volunteers. Some of the trips are specifically aimed at new birders. I’ve found that seeing and hearing the birds with experienced people to point them out is the best way to learn.

      Like

  4. BermudaOnion / Sep 8 2012 6:16 am

    What a great photo! I know that must have been exciting to see!

    Like

  5. Paulita / Sep 8 2012 6:34 am

    You make it all sound so intriguing. Thanks for sharing. Here’s Mine

    Like

  6. Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate / Sep 8 2012 6:46 am

    Great photos. It is a lovely bird.
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

    Like

  7. laurelrainsnow / Sep 8 2012 7:25 am

    I especially love the light and colors of the grass in the first photo.

    Leslie, I finished reading a book this week called Little Night; it’s really about family problems and domestic violence, but one of the characters is a birder and blogger living in Manhattan. She studies the birds in the parks.

    Here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 9 2012 10:19 am

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I’d probably enjoy the birding references. I’ve put it on my to-read list.

      Like

  8. Bookishtimes / Sep 8 2012 8:54 am

    Beautiful Shots 😀 **New Follower**

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 9 2012 10:25 am

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad you like the birds, I post photos of them every weekend.

      Like

  9. Sheila (Book Journey) / Sep 8 2012 10:53 am

    You always have such beautiful bird pics!

    Like

  10. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Sep 8 2012 11:03 am

    That’s so awesome that you were able to get photos of it – especially that last one! You should have seen my cats when I played that bird call. Their heads whipped around and one of them started licking his chops. They are indoor kitties, but evidently they have big dreams. 🙂

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 9 2012 10:27 am

      It’s pure instinct with cats. They need to hunt, and not just birds. There was a segment on Fridays 20/20 about cats as predators and why they should be kept indoors.

      Like

  11. Wrighty / Sep 8 2012 1:30 pm

    I’ve never been on a bird field trip but it sounds so interesting! I’ve become more fascinated with birds over recent years. I really enjoy watching the humming birds visit our feeders.

    Your photos are always beautiful and these are as well! Great close ups! 🙂

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 10 2012 10:32 pm

      A lot of the bird clubs have field trips aimed at beginners and often you can join them even if you aren’t a member of the club. That’s how I started. I saw a small article in the local paper about an upcoming bird walk and just showed up!

      Like

  12. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Sep 8 2012 1:43 pm

    Now that is a new species to me. great shot

    Like

  13. Kim V / Sep 8 2012 2:22 pm

    Bird watching sounds interesting and these are gorgeous shots, but I am not sure that I would have the patience. Thanks for sharing your photos!

    Like

  14. Barbara / Sep 8 2012 2:38 pm

    I’ve never seen one of these before. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  15. Christine Harding / Sep 8 2012 3:48 pm

    That last shot is amazing. I’ve never heard of this bird before (but then a lot the birds you photograph are completely new to me). My Snapshot is at http://goo.gl/g4s6H

    Like

  16. Bev@My Reader's Block / Sep 8 2012 7:08 pm

    I love that first picture–peeking through the long grass at the Sora.

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshot.

    Like

  17. irene / Sep 8 2012 8:10 pm

    How lovely, your patience paid off.

    Like

  18. Arti / Sep 8 2012 8:54 pm

    I started taking a 14-week bird-watching course last week. I was told, just like you’ve said here, you’d hear their calls before seeing them. So, we’re to be very quiet and alert to listen to birds, learn to ID their calls first. Your photos are lovely, very close and clear. That’s another thing I learned. It’s so hard to take a good photo of them.

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 10 2012 10:38 pm

      Finding birds becomes much easier as the leaves fall off the trees so you’re taking the class at the right time. Backyard birds are fairly easy to photograph and much more approachable than the ones out in the woods. Without the zoom lens I’d never get clear shots.

      Like

  19. edgar / Sep 9 2012 12:19 am

    Very distinct bird call. Thank you for giving some of the bird’s information.

    Like

  20. Susan / Sep 9 2012 8:47 am

    What a short little tail, but what a long pointy beak! Aren’t physical adaptations a marvel? What a neat break your group had with this little recluse!

    Like

  21. Kailana / Sep 9 2012 9:07 pm

    Great pictures!!!

    Like

  22. Suko / Sep 9 2012 11:20 pm

    Lovely photos and the soundtrack is wonderful as well!

    Like

  23. Carol / Sep 10 2012 12:43 pm

    What great photos! And I can imagine everyone’s excitement over seeing it. I’m not much of a brid-watcher myself, but a man I know has become pretty dedicated after he retired.

    Like

    • Leslie / Sep 10 2012 1:34 pm

      It can get time consuming watching and waiting for all those birds so I can see why a lot of retired folks take up the hobby… they have the time! We do have a fair number of young birders too, which is nice because they hear bird sounds before the rest of us do.

      Like

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