Monday, August 31, 2015

THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! An Unlikely Duo Goes Head-to-Head

The weather works in mysterious ways. Oregon is certainly in no shape for me to be rooting against a much-needed bout of rain, but with ambitious camping plans we booked for this weekend our fingers were crossed that the worst of it would hold off just a little bit longer. It was not to be; Oregon's southern coast will have to wait. We tried to find a last-minute alternative, but between the storms to the west of us, and the wildfires to the east, we decided it best to sit tight. The skies mostly cleared up in the afternoon, so we were able to fit our shorebirding in after all -- just much closer to home.

Shorebird flock - Western and Pectoral Sandpipers

The sweet lovers' embrace of a couple of star-crossed orthopterans

Damselfly glamour shot

We spent parts of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Ankeny NWR reveling in migrant Pectoral Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and assorted peeps. Practically everything else we tried to turn into a Baird's Sandpiper, but we just couldn't make the name fit convincingly. The real highlight of the weekend, though, was a collaboration between two birds you'd never imagine seeing together, even while they share a home.

Semipalmated Plover

Pectoral and Western Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpiper

I was crouched down inspecting a bug, when I noticed a form out on a muddy patch of shoreline that hadn't been there a minute earlier. "Rail… rail… Virginia Rail" I sputtered. We manage to (rarely) see these from time to time, but like any rail, they're more often heard than seen, and this was the most open we've caught one yet. A few seconds later and it was joined by another super secretive species, a Sora.

It's uncommon enough to see one of these skulkers out from behind their usual dense cover, but to see both side by side is practically unfathomable, like bigfoot sidling up to a unicorn. The two lingered together for nearly a minute, picking at the substrate like old friends. The Sora left first, and then came back shortly after for an encore. For all I know this was one in a long series of regular inter-rail check-ins, but truly it seemed like something that will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. In fact, I did hear from one researcher on Twitter who studies rails, and she told me that she's never seen a Sora commingle with a Virginia Rail. So there you go.

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