Rarely seen

You can see an amazing assortment of birds from the boardwalks that traverse the coastal nature reserves near Huntington Beach, California.  On our early morning walks, we spotted three species I had never photographed before, two of which I had never even seen before.

Surf Scoter

With its thick, boldly patterned red, yellow and white bill, and white eye, the male Surf Scoter is an easily recognized black diving duck.

Surf Scoters breed on fresh water lakes in Alaska and northern Canada, but winter along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.  Usually they are much too far out in the ocean to photograph, but a small flock was exploring the Newport Back Bay the same day I was.  Females lack the big white patches on forehead and nape.

Male Pintail ducks

A pair of male Pintail ducks foraged in the still waters of the Newport Back Bay.  When these handsome males are in breeding plumage, they sport elongated, upright tail feathers that give them their name.

Like Mallards, Pintail ducks breed in fresh water lakes all over North Anerica, but I rarely see them near me.  Their chocolate brown color and graceful swan-like necks make them a standout for photography.


More often seen than heard, the Sora is the most common rail in North America. This one was probing the short, fleshy stems of pickle weed in deep shade under the boardwalk.

Secretive Soras!  So difficult to see, but here was one just waking around right in front of me, completely oblivious to all the people passing on the boardwalk. I most often hear them calling their distinctive “whinny” of descending notes from somewhere deep in the cattail marshes that they occupy during the breeding season.

Garth McElroy at Wild Bird Video productions has a great video of a Sora foraging is a marsh.  Click on the highlighted link and advance the video to 0:50 seconds to hear the bird make its call.


8 thoughts on “Rarely seen

  1. Nice look at the Sora. The last time I heard one I almost fell in the marsh trying to get a good look. And I wasn’t the only birder in the group that threw caution to the wind to see that bird!

    • Aren’t they stinkers? This was the first time I’ve really gotten a good look. Well, now I know where to go see them, too bad it’s 2000 miles from where I live.

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