First off, Happy Easter to everyone! If all goes well today, I’ll be adding a check on my birding list thanks to a quick trip up north. Ron has alerted me to a bird hanging out around Joliet that I still need to get in the tin. Apparently this particular specimen has decided to get chummy with a local flock. The current plan is to catch some birding at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The wind is supposed to die down, but the mercury dropped as well. Hmm, guessing the younger generation doesn’t know what that means anymore – I remember as a kid having mercury races on the school bus – put a drop in each of the channels of the rubber mat that ran the length of the bus between the seats and see which one made it to the back of the bus by the end of the trip – then again, somewhat amazed it didn’t cause serious health damage. In honor of going after a new bird, decided to feature another new check on my list.
That there is a Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016. By now you should be very familiar with that birding sight on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Someday I should count up all the +1’s my two trips to that location have netted. Guessing it rivals the impressive counts obtained at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Nevada. That isn’t even considering the improved pictures I was able to get in the tin for birds already on the list. This particular find almost went unnoticed in the digital darkroom.
Hit the jump to see another version of this picture and learn a bit (ha) more about this Bittern.
When this particular specimen was encountered, I really didn’t get too excited beyond the fact I really liked the setting – from a photographer’s eye, I thought the intersecting lines from the reeds, the reflections and then the lines on the bird feathering up through the bill was intriguing. At the time, wrongly assumed this was a Green Heron, a bird I had already witnessed a number of times throughout the day. Focused on getting a shot of the scene and moved on without thinking much about it. Only when I got to finally processing it, did it occur to me that this specimen was NOT a Green Heron. A quick review of the reference books and an email to Ron confirmed the new species. There was some quick thoughts of American vs Least, but this bird was definitely smaller in stature than their larger relatives. Adding in another version of the shot above – trying to figure out which one I like better. The bottom one has the intersecting bill with the reed completing the connecting line composition and is zoomed in a bit. The shot above spaces the bill which breaks the composition, but gives better separation of the bird from the scene. Any opinions?
Looks like I am out of pictures – again, if I had known it was a new bird at the time, I would have exercised the shutter more. Keeping with tradition, let’s go see what I can pass along about this new check. Looks like they winter down the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Keys and a smattering of places in Central America. I can officially confirm they can be found in the winter on the Gulf ha. They have a habit of straddling reeds allowing them to hunt in waters too deep for other Herons. When alarmed, they will freeze in place with their bills pointed up and start to sway mimicking nearby reeds. Okay, and this last fact from Cornell I’m just going to throw out there. Appears Mr. Audubon did some experimenting and determined that a captive Bittern “was able to walk with ease between two books standing 1.5 inches (4 cm) apart”. Now the kicker – he also noted “when dead, the bird’s body measured 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) across”. Let’s hope for the bird’s sake this ability to compress its breadth was not carried out at the same time! Ever research how Sybley was able to provide such detail in his drawings? I think of that every time I read an article going on about never disturbing the birds in the wild.
All I have for you, wish me luck on today’s hunt.