A bird of the wetlands, the bittern is notoriously hard to find. Not only is it shy, elusive, and endangered, it is also very well camouflaged. As it turns out, I practically tripped over this bird. If it were not for my non-birding cousin, I may have missed it entirely.
We were at a wetlands area called Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, south of Lake George, near DeLand. (And DeWater!) If you are not familiar with Florida, try looking north of Orlando, southwest of Daytona Beach. I was having a great day. I had already seen Sandhill Cranes, White Ibis, Black Vultures, Great Blue, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, and both Great and Snowy Egrets. I was scanning the shoreline across a small channel when Nancy said, "There's a bird right there."
"Right where?" I asked, continuing to focus on the weeds on the opposite shore.
"Right there," she replied. I checked out the nearest greenery, looking for a sparrow or some other LBJ.
"No," she insisted, "right THERE."
I followed her pointing finger. OMG! An American Bittern, about 10 feet away from me.
Can you see it now?
This has got to be the coolest bird ever! It looked just like a stump, and despite our proximity, me talking too loudly, and my eager attempts to get just-one-more photo, it stayed in one place, swaying back and forth, imitating the weeds blowing in the breeze.
Finally, I got just a bit too close and spooked it. It flew over the channel to the next weedy patch, and when I looked for it, it had vanished. Awesome!
Just for the record, Nancy also spotted the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a tiny, flittery little thing. Not a Life Bird, but still a good find. Need luck on your next quest for Lifers? Take along a non-birder - they're lucky!