Bird Photography: Sora Loser


Among the very toughest birds to photograph are the birds of the rail family. Among those rails, the Sora is one of the “eaiser” birds. You couldn’t prove that by WC.

Last week, WC was in Camas Prairie,1 returning from the Sawtooths. While the Centennial Marsh there is drying out as summer progresses, there’s still enough standing water to support a few Bitterns and a significant number of Sora. In fact, WC had an immature Sora foraging right below him in one of the remaining water channels.

Like all rails, Sora are skulky, tending to stay back in the grasses, reeds and sedges. Worse, they don’t move in a straight line or at a steady pace. Instead, they dart here and there. Add that the bird was backlit in fairly harsh light, and this is what you get when you try to photograph a Sora.

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The bird darted back into the vegetation after half an instant in the open.

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This might have been a good shot but at the last moment he turned his head so his face in shadow.

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Waiting for him to move in to the open, he turned and put grass blades between himself and the camera.

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So WC set up in an open area in his probable path and waited for him to move into it. And the wind blew reeds into the foreground. And the body angle puts the face and neck into shadow.

This is just four photos. WC shot about thirty equally bad photos of this single bird trying to get a decent one. And failed. Which is why WC calls himself a Sora loser.

For those who are curious, here’s a shot of a Sora more in the open, This is an adult bird in early spring migration, in central Florida. Presumably this bird was hungry or tired enough to hold still, in the open, long enough for a photo.

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Identifying the features that make this last bird an adult and the Camas Prairie bird a juvenile is left as an exercise for the reader.


  1. Which isn’t a prairie at all but rather a rift created by the Yellowstone hot spot when it drifted by 8.5 million years ago and the basin and range faulting since. But that’s a different post. 
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