Sora perched on Rice Stubble
Today was one of the most special we have ever experienced as birders, as we returned to the rice fields. The huge combine which had let us down yesterday was functioning (it needed to be unclogged :) and it roared around several fields while we watched for birds which it flushed, riding on it and alongside of it. There were five types of rails which we saw: yellow rail, king rail, clapper rail, Virginia rail, and sora (the most numerous), as well as various sparrows. The variety was extraordinary. The local Audubon Society has teamed up with rice farmers and others to put on an annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival, which will take place next week--we experienced a marvelous preview today.
Yellow rails were our main objective, and we saw perhaps two dozen. But they are very small, smaller than a robin, and extremely fast and secretive; they were visible flying at jet speed into hiding, or wriggling along under the rice stubble.
In fact Marylee and I saw only one individual sit up on the stubble after being flushed, and that was this Sora (9 in./22 cm); it was at the very beginning of our visit, as we rode alongside the combine in a small all-terrain vehicle. (To be clear, the combine cuts the rice plants and separates the grains from everything else.)
Before the rice fields we went to the coast, for good looks at a number of birds--most notably seaside sparrows and Nelson's sparrows--marshland birds which are ordinarily very difficult to see but which today were incredibly cooperative--they could have provided almost as good a blip. Late afternoon was more prosaic but still good.