Monday, January 28, 2008

Life Bird: American Bittern

I have so much to tell you about, I don't know where to start. Although the stated purpose of my trip to Orlando was to participate in the North American Veterinary Conference, I don't really feel like blogging about that tonight. So, instead, I'll treat you to one of the 11 (yes, that's right, ELEVEN!) Life Birds I picked up on my trip, the American Bittern.

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 the bittern in this photo? No?

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.

Isn't it beautiful?

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!


holly said...

Good for you! Beautiful shots.

I was walking the dogs last Sunday and we went along a deep ditch out back of our woods. We were literally right at the edge of it and a blue heron camp flapping wildly up (man, they look clumsy) and took off. Startled all 3 of us *very* much. I know BHs aren't a huge Birder's bird but it was still neat to tip my head back and watch it soar away.

The other night I was out with the dogs and heard something above. It was a lone Canada goose, flying rather low and honking continously until out of earshot. Why would one goose be flying that late at night? I've never heard that before. Flocks in the evening yes, before they settle down at night but not a loner at midnight.

Susan Gets Native said...

So, the next time we go birding together, we will be taking a non-birder? 'Cause that's the only way we will be seeing any birds.

Glad you're back!
The bittern is fabo.

Kathy said...

The bittern is so beautiful! I'm glad you were able to get so many great photos of it.

Lisa said...

Holly - I suspect the goose stayed too long at the buffet - maybe s/he was in the bathroom when everyone else formed up to leave? - and was yelling, "hey! wait for me!"

Lisa at Greenbow said...

They are handsome birds. Glad you got such a good look and pictures.

Those non birders aren't expecting something so I think that is one reason they find things. Like looking so close etc..

Mary said...

Good grief. It did look like a tree stump. Maybe I'll force a non-birder to walk with me and point out some lifers.

Great bird!