Stalking the Sora

Two weeks ago I was in Edgemont in NW Calgary, so I stopped at Edgemont Ravines to check out the two ponds there. I didn’t have my camera, which was too bad, because I was able to see the elusive Sora.  Soras are small waterbirds in the rail family, who spend a lot of time hiding in the reeds.

Last week I returned to the ponds, with camera in hand, to try to get a picture of the Sora.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it, but I did find some other interesting birds and mammals.  The pictures below are from that second trip.

Park on the east side of Edgebrook Boulevard NW.

The easternmost pond.

On my first visit I walked around both ponds, and saw an American Coot, several Mallards, and lots of male Red-winged Blackbirds.  Suddenly, a strange bird popped up onto a cattail…

Every time the first of these comes into view in the spring, I briefly believe that I have discovered a bird unknown to science.  This, of course, is a female Red-winged Blackbird.  They look so unlike the males that at first it seems to be a different species altogether.

It turned out that there were many Red-winged Blackbirds, both male and female, and they were engaged in courtship behaviour and nest-building.

As I finished up the circuit, I heard the hair-raising whinny of a Sora coming from a corner of the pond.  This Sora specialty is one of my favourites, because it sounds like demented laughter.

Sounds courtesy Xeno-canto .

Soras are very elusive birds, who skulk around the margins of ponds, rarely showing themselves.  You hear them far more often than you see them.

I slowly moved towards the spot where the Sora was hidden: step, wait; step, wait; until I was finally rewarded with a shoe-ful of water.  Drat.  I was too close to the pond.

Luckily, back on shore, there was a convenient “surveillance bush” right near the spot where the Sora was concealed.

I lurked behind the bush for ten minutes or so, trying to hold still while mosquitoes treated my neck like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Finally, there  was some movement in the grass, and there was the Sora!  The bird came almost out into the open.  I regretted not having that camera.  Naturally, when I returned the following week with camera, there was no sign of the bird.  The shot below remains the best picture I’ve got of a Sora, taken at Valleyview Park pond in southeast Calgary in 2008.

Soras almost always seem to keep some vegetation between themselves and the camera.

Despite missing out on the Sora, I continued to the second pond, where last year I had found a Pied-billed Grebe.  Wouldn’t you know it; this time there were no grebes, but there was a pair of scaup.

Lesser or Greater Scaup?

A breeding American Coot didn’t like them around and repeatedly emerged from the rushes to chase them off.

Determined Coot chug-chug-chugging towards his foes!

On my way back to the parking lot, I noticed a small plump rodent scurry into the bushes.  Eventually, I got some pictures.  It was a Vole, probably a Meadow Vole.

So although you don’t always find what you’re looking for, you usually see something interesting, even at the smallest ponds.  All in all, a rewarding outing.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

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3 thoughts on “Stalking the Sora

  1. Loved your comment about discovering a bird unknown to science! These birds do the same thing to me every spring, year after year…

  2. Hi,
    I have pictures of the Sora taken at the Egmont pond on the 24th. I was chasing a picture of a muskrat and the Sora dropped into the rushes just in fromt of me. One of the pictures is on my website.

    Glenn

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