This bird is called a Sora.
One of the things that’s really compelling for me about bird watching is the challenge of identifying the bird. And not just the challenge, but what the challenge reveals about the way my brain works (or doesn’t).
A Sora is not a particularly difficult bird to identify. It’s difficult to see, because it’s a rail, and rails are fat and tasty and survive mostly by being really good at hiding in reeds near the water and never coming into view unless you, the birdwatcher, are really patient and quiet and a little lucky.
Soras are probably the easiest of the rails to get a glimpse of, at least in my experience, but they still are stuck firmly in that part of my brain reserved for rails: Secretive. Hard to see. Always in the reeds near water.
So it was interesting, and fun, when one winter day in a snowstorm at 9,000 feet in the eastern Sierra Nevada, probably miles from the nearest water that wasn’t covered by ice, my wife and I glanced out the window of our condo and saw a bird climbing around in the branches of a nearby lodgepole pine. It was moving awkwardly from branch to branch, shaking off the snow with its giant feet, and I was just agog. Because I’d been birding for a couple of decades, and I was having what was at that point a very unfamiliar experience: I was looking at a bird, had a good view of it, and had no clue what family it was in, to say nothing of genus or species. My brain just could not put together what I was seeing: It was in a pine tree, in the snow, and it just looked completely wrong. It was not any kind of bird that I could imagine being there.
I think it probably took me a good 20 seconds, looking at the bird, talking about it with Linda, before the logjam in my brain suddenly gave way and the truth flooded over me: It was a Sora. And then everything in the world made sense again.
Those 20 seconds were awesome.
Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/48819541270.