I remember when the Heron County Park boardwalk was constructed several years ago, all bright, clean and new. Not much, other than Canada geese, frequented this new intrusion into the marsh at the headwaters of Lake Vermilion. Over the years, the boardwalk has sagged, the wood weathered and sun-beaten, but the marsh has accepted this incursion into a landscape humans seldom frequent.
A recent afternoon spent here yielded a plethora of photographic opportunities that could only be accomplished by actually entering into the quiet, shallow, vegetation-ridden waters of a great marsh. The place is not pretty, with cattails and phragmites holding equal sway; toppled logs from the former forest crisscross the water in a crazy, pick-up sticks kind of pattern.
We are here, though, on this cold, blustery spring afternoon because numerous posts to the local bird network have stated that sora rails can be seen here in abundance. Hmmmm . . . this elusive, half-chicken-sized wetland creature is more often heard than seen and our experience with successfully photographing them has been limited to the marshes along the south Texas coast.
The tower at the head of the boardwalk beckons, but the chill wind means we prefer to quietly stroll along the sheltered boardwalk that winds through the scruffy marsh vegetation. Sue goes one way with her 300 mm lens, I head the other with my 500 mm. As it turns out, the reason all the photos here are Sue's is that my lens was much too long for the soon-to-be abundant soras!
After an initial fleeting glimpse (what I had expected), we soon found several adults casually strolling alongside the boardwalk, oblivious to our presence. We spent an hour watching soras pick their way through the tangled aquatic mess on feet seemingly suited for a bird many times its size.
Soras fed, called, and admired their reflections in the water. On several occasions they even deigned to leave the dense vegetation cover and pose as no sora rails I've ever experienced have done.
As with all good wetlands, other creatures displayed their presence for us: a male red-winged blackbird called and postured, a familiar Canada goose struck an elegant pose for our cameras, while a greater yellowlegs hunted a few yards away, ultimately collecting a large tadpole for its afternoon snack.
The only thing that drove us away was that I had failed in my temperature estimation and dressed inappropriately; a cup of hot chocolate beckoned.