Ripples 6/18/20

Written by Nancy Nabak, Communication Coordinator

A bird that sounds like a horse?  Or how about a wild laugh overheard at a cocktail party? The owner of these unusual sounds is an eight-inch secretive marsh bird called a “sora.”photo of sora preening

Because I work at Woodland Dunes, one might assume that it’s easy to get photos of these soras or any wildlife on any given day. Well, I’m certainly in the right geography, but “easy” is not the word I would use. It takes time after time of being in the right habitat, at just the right moment, with a bit of luck to get the photo you’ve been looking for, or one that just happens to drop in your lap.

Recently, I was out on the trails, discovering what was happening with spring, when I happened to come across a quiet sora preening.

If you’ve been on Cattail Trail at Woodland Dunes in the spring (the one that goes into the marsh), you’ve probably heard a sora call out and may have not known what it was. It’s an interesting marsh bird that vocalizes when looking for a mate, when feeding, and when alarmed – that’s when you usually hear the descending whinny sound. This is a common bird for our marsh, but often hard to see because it skulks among the cattails and tall marsh grasses. It’s roughly the size of a football and has long green legs with wide-spread toes so it can easily move in its aquatic garden.

So as I was walking Cattail Trail, I noticed a sora quietly preening in the open. To see a sora in the open is a bit rare, but to have it preen in front of you…well, that’s something special. I carefully took as many photos as I could of this wonderful bathing ballet, hoping that it would give me a front row seat to a show I’d never seen before. And it did.

I watched as it twisted its head backwards and rubbed feathers down its back. I watched it tuck its head under its wing and peck and poke. I watched it fluff and spread its feathers, just as we stretch our arms over our head when we’re tired.

Afterwards, I second-guessed myself on whether I should have taken a movie of this moment instead of stills. But then I realized I wouldn’t have these images where the feathers are fanned. Their elegance is so prominent. They deserve to be admired in one frozen look. This moment by moment preening session gave me new eyes for this unusual bird. I’ve always viewed it as striking and a bit funky looking, but now I see it as beautiful and touching as the Swan Lake ballet.

photo- Sora by Nancy Nabak


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