For some spoiled birders (Berrien County birders come to mind [Smith lakes]), this may seem trite, but for me seeing and hearing a Least Bittern is a rare treat. Even more challenging has been trying to add this rare species to my Kent County list. I have been scoping habitat on Google Earth now since early May, looking for suitably large cattail wetlands with pockets of protected coves with small openings. I have found several longshot candidates (and at least one good one) but so far all of my 10+ attempts have been fruitless. Until tonight. After hearing about the US Fish and Wildlife Service's new National Wetlands Inventory, which allows users to see the exact distribution of wetlands across the country using Google Earth, I found such a place. It is called Muskrat Lake and it is in the east central portion of the county near Grattan. tonight I put the boat in to give it a try. At the SW extension of this lake is a small, protected cove lined with cattail and what I believe to be Whorled Loosestrife:
And other portions lined with cattails:
I pulled in as it became overcast with a threat of thunderstorms, and was instantly surprised to hear a singing Least Bittern right about 8:10PM (watch the end of the clip for the bird to fly):
After some waiting the bird finally perched in the open, but the light was so bad I couldn't get a better picture than this:
Anyway, this serves as my 207th Kent County species, and is only the 9th time I've ever observed the species, and the second time I've heard it sing. Absolutely priceless.