The American Bittern

by Shalom Shirk | Mar 1, 2023 | 0 comments

American Bittern
American Bittern. Photo © Shalom Shirk.

Climbing off some logs in our pond, I didn’t expect the pleasant surprise God had in store for me.

Wait! What was that?! A female Mallard? The bird was sitting on a log preening itself, but it looked like it was sitting very upright for a Mallard. It never hurts to make sure you know what a bird is, so I decided to get a closer look. There it was… a Least Bittern!

Every birder knows the excitement and exhilaration of spotting a lifer. And isn’t it satisfying when you know the name of the bird before you look in the field guide? That’s what happened to me that day—or—well, I thought I knew the name.

I didn’t want to scare it away, so I didn’t attempt to get too close. I got a good look at it and then ran for the camera and my siblings. I raced through the woods at top speed with a joyful heart.

When I got to the house, it was empty. I soon found my family out in the garden planting lettuce.

Oh, no. Well, I guess I should help them. I ran out to the garden and broadcasted the news.

When we were done, my brother and I went to the house, and he looked in the bird book. I found out it was an American Bittern, not a Least Bittern as I had thought. Then we were off through the woods to find the bittern.

Now where was it? It was not on the log…oh good, there it is! It was in the water now, and some sticks made it hard to see. When it saw us, it stretched its head up in the air. We went closer, and it didn’t fly; it just kept its head up.

My brother and I crawled closer, and it still didn’t fly. There was a little knoll, so I crawled behind it, peaked over, and snapped some pictures. The bittern was now less than 50 feet (15 m) away.

After a little it tried to sneak away by lowering its head, pausing a bit, and lowering it again. After its head was down, it slipped silently away through the grass. We stayed awhile and then headed back to the house, glad for a new bird to add to our list and glad for the pictures I had shot.

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