Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Least Bittern

These Bitterns have it rough. They're one of the smallest birds in the Heron/Egret/Bittern group. Their larger cousin, the American Bittern, is renowned for its patriotism, even though it too, like the Least Bittern, prefers to hide or flee instead of fight. Perhaps the Least Bittern's trouble is that they are too good at hiding. They're small, quiet, and very well-camouflaged for their reedy habitat.

Usually I see Least Bitterns as they're flying away from me or retreating into the cattails. This past weekend I was fortunate to see four Least Bittern at Tres Rios. Alas, I saw all of them in the usual startle-and-fly method, which always makes me feel like a clumsy unobservant oaf. But as it wasn't yet too hot and I was really hoping for some pictures, I decided to maintain a stake out for one of the birds that flew across the river, but did not disappear entirely.

I could follow the bird through the reeds by observing the swerving plants, and after five or six minutes it emerged at the edge of the cattail hedge to reassess its surroundings.

I totally dig the pin-stripe pattern on the neck. These birds aren't especially uncommon, but their secretive nature and neat coloration ensures that they're always a pleasure to see, and never a sight to take for granted.