Friday, October 30, 2015

A sight for Sora eyes

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sora, Central Park

For almost two weeks, the most notable bird in Central Park has been this Sora who has been in the Loch in the northern part of the park. Soras are freshwater marsh birds, and don't normally stop in Manhattan even during migration. We get maybe one very couple of years--the last one was in Bryant Park in October of 2013.

Soras are also normally quite skulky, though you wouldn't know it from this one. Probably it has resigned itself to the lack of really dense cover in the Loch. The bird's left wing appears damaged--it drags the wingtip, though I'm not sure if there's actual structural damage or if the feathers are just mangled.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sora, Central Park

You can see the droppy left wing in this second photo. There's been some talk of trying to trap the Sora and get it to a wildlife rehabber; I know the park rangers tried at least once, unsuccessfully. The Wild Bird Fund people are worried that catching the bird might be more stressful than letting it try to heal on its own--it appears to be foraging well, and if the problem is just feather damage it might replace those feathers in time to get south on its own. Or, they can try to capture it later. No need to force a crisis early.

Meantime, it's been giving some excellent views. Unfortunately, I have heard that a photographer was chasing it around with a big flash a couple of days ago. I suspect I know who that was--not a malicious guy, but just clueless about how birds behave. Which is not a great excuse.

Anyway, I got this second photo from about 18 feet away--I stood behind some vegetation on the opposite bank of the stream (it's only two or three feet wide) and waited for it to emerge from a thicket. The top photo, taken slightly later, was even closer.

I moved down the stream ten feet or so in the direction the Sora was going, and waited. I was rather in the open, and I was worried that the bird would spot me and turn back, but I figured at least it wouldn't be really disturbed as long as I didn't approach it.

I think this is usually the right technique for a bird that forages on the ground--figure out where it's headed, get there first, be still and wait quietly. Just don't chase the bird around--you'll scare it, it will think you're a predator.

In the event, the Sora paid no attention to me and continued working downstream, walking right past me. I could have gotten a lower point of view, but I was in a bit awkward position, and I didn't want to move a lot once it came into sight.

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