A few days ago, very much at the end of the day when the cloud cover had taken over completely and the sun was moving quickly to the horizon, I started my trip back to the house. I had been hanging out at the far west side of the pond where there’s an inlet of marshy, shallow water that supports a small stand of cattails. As I turned the corner, I saw a small tree at the edge of the pond supporting a half dozen little birds. I stopped, took the lens cover off the camera again, and snapped off a few shots. I knew the conditions were poor at best, but with the Spring migration in full swing, I knew these birds might be here for just a few days or less. So, it was worth trying to capture a marginal image. The rest of this story can be found at this blog PAGE – Name That Swallow.
We taught a class over the weekend, so I wasn’t able to get out to evaluate the bird life for a couple of days. But, the first thing I did when I had the time was to go back to the west inlet of the pond. I wanted to see if the unknown Swallow I had filmed was still around and if it would settle long enough for me to get a quality photo.
As I was sitting patiently, gazing over the pond at the swallows that were soaring but not landing, I saw movement in my peripheral vision. A quick head turn and I thought it was a large rat! It disappeared in the taller vegetation at the edge of the pond. Readjusting the camera angle to hopefully record the animal, I didn’t have to wait long. It wasn’t a rat. It was a bird that appeared to be hunting in the shallows. It had a start-stop action like many birds that make a living catching critters in the water. I took photos, but I knew they wouldn’t be stellar and the sun was popping in and out of the clouds, and it left the water looking nearly black. Here are a few of the decent pictures I took of that bird – including a couple showing the characteristic tail feathers, another displaying it’s crazy long legs, and a final one showing what it nabbed to eat, which appears to be a snail.
Fortunately, for me, a second bird slithered out of the cattails which were quite a bit closer to my position. I was elated to take these photos of a bird I knew was a new species for me (our property), but that I didn’t yet know its identity.
Both of the birds were quite elusive – quickly zipping back under cover at the slightest motivation for safety. During that time, I used the Merlin app to learn the identify of this lovely creature. Using the colors yellow (for the brightly colored beak) and brown and “swimming or wading” as the location, a series of birds were displayed. Most of them had very long bills, which is more characteristic of birds that make a living finding aquatic meals. The short beak that was also brilliant colored yellow made the identification very easy. This is a Sora. It’s a member of the Rail family. Yeah. I didn’t know what a Rail was until I encountered this lovely Sora in my pond.
At the Audubon website, it states, “Despite its abundance, it is not often seen: As with other rails, it spends most of its time hidden in dense marshy growth or wet meadows.” Apparently, I was quite lucky to have seen two of them. The Audubon site also places my location on the edge of two zones: “Migration” and “Uncommon breeding.” Who knows, perhaps these two will stick around if they like the option for rearing their chicks. But, probably they are just here for a short while on their way northward where they breed in northern states and Canada.
I was able to film the Sora that was slipping in and out of the cattails one more time. Here are a few of those images. With a bit more sunlight, I was able to capture the glint in the bird’s eye. That always makes me happy.
It was a wonderful surprise and it was a good swap for failing to capture the elusive, unidentified Swallow that I’ve been observing. Perhaps I will accomplish that goal soon!