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Friday, April 22, 2011

2 Kent Co. bitterns at the same place and time

Headed back to Chase Lake (please note that this site is accessible only with the permission of the landowner) last night to try to get the Least Bittern for several of us who still needed it as a lifer and/or county bird. Antoher primary focus of mine was the Night-Heron which I was unwilling to call to species; I was hoping to nail it down to Black-crowned once and for all, in the rare event we get a Yellow-crowned eventually, so that I could count both species.

Many of the 'expected' participants in this tour had to grudgingly turn it down at the last second, but the 6 of us who showed up probably had an average age of less than 20 (!). It is strange being the 'grandpa' of the birding community as of a sudden...
The lake is gorgeous, with pitcher-plants and a very diverse flora. Neil had the utter joy of being the only person without a kayak. Instead he was reduced to kneeling in a very wide canoe which cut through the water about as well as a barge. Nevertheless, he did a good job of keeping up with the much faster kayaks.The Night-Heron ended up being a no show, despite much effort at the location of the sighting from 18 April:
The Least Bittern, thankfully, was still on location and singing his heart out. I was able to get a couple of much better video clips of him singing (we did not actually see the bird despite much effort to do so):





And finally, an even rarer Kent Co. bird, and another of our premeditated targets for this trip, was American Bittern. This species migrates through in small numbers each spring and fall but is not known to breed in the county (Least Bittern does). At dusk, as we were watching intently for a Night-Heron to emerge, this bird lifted from the marsh and circled around extensively. This is only the second time I've seen this species in Kent Co., the first at Roselle Park on 3 October 2007 while searching the grassland for Nelson's Sparrows. Here is some digibinned video of it in flight:



A final sidenote: at first when I saw the American Bittern in flight I thought it was going to be a Night-Heron based on body size. However once I got the binoculars on it it was easily apparent that it was an American Bittern. The Night-Heron from 3 nights ago had broader wings and a much less apparent neck in flight. Additionally, the Bittern's head and bill are very differently shaped, being tapered from the relatively thick neck, to a long, thin point at the bill tip (the Night-Heron is much more attenuated here). Finally, the Night-Heron was missing an inner primary or secondary on its right wing but not its left wing, while the American Bittern was missing no flight feathers. These were clearly two different birds.

1 comment:

Zachary DeBruine said...

Thanks so much for taking us on this unforgettable trip. The Bittern video is truly astounding! It's amazing how well it turned out despite the dark sky!