Sunday, 1 December 2013

Once Bittern Twice Shy - Epic Weekend!

A Walk on My Patch

I had a lets say "rather eventful" bird encounter during my walk on my local patch; you see whilst enjoying the beautiful countryside scenery, you soon start to come across these pools that range in size. Anyway one of these pools has a rather large area of reed bed, and I'm stood there observing the reeds when suddenly this thing of beauty comes into view, the Bittern. I have come across many unusual birds on my patch, like the Smew and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but never a Bittern. This is the first time there has ever been a Bittern known down there and the good thing is someone spotted it before me 4 or 5 weeks ago so that kind of tells me it is likely to stick around over Winter. 


I will keep you updated on my observations as I will be going down to try and monitor it every week, especially as it a Red Status bird.

I had only seen a Bittern once up until now; however I only saw it's neck for a few seconds before it disappeared into the reeds at Marbury Park, and so the excitement and enthusiasm struck me like a bolt of lightning when I saw it this close and that is was on my local patch (within a few miles of my front door).

This is the best picture we got as it was properly out in the open, although even though it was out in an open part of the reeds it still took ages to find, as they are so well camouflaged and very shy. I think I was staring right at it for about half an hour before I realised it was a Bittern and not a reed.

 I don't actually know whether this is a male or female, so it would be great if I could have some advice on how you tell if it is a male or female.

It wasn't just the amazing Bittern we saw today, we saw plenty of other birds but here is the final picture of this remarkable bird, for this weekend anyway.

One of the other birds we saw today was a Grey Heron, but hunting in the grass, we all thought (me, my brother, my mum and my dad) it was possibly hunting for frogs and things like that.

 This is the pool where we saw the Bittern; as shown below the reeds are at either side of the pool, but this picture was taken to show the picture of this rather scary Autumn half dead tree. 

 On this pool there was a pair of Mute Swans following us up and down the path, one of which had a bright green colour ring on it which was nice to see. Almost as good as the Bittern, a new bird I have never seen before and never seen on my local patch was a wonderful Water Rail. It flew from within the reeds to the other side of the pool.

It was a walk full of Winter Thrushes as we saw Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Fieldfare and Redwing.

 Here is a list of the birds I saw today on the walk, in the order we saw them: Collared Dove, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Fieldfare, Redwing, Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Robin, Starling, Magpie, Black Headed Gull, Blackbird, Mallard, Buzzard, Great Tit, Tree Creeper, Chaffinch, Coot, Moorhen, Meadow Pipit, Song Thrush, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Jay, Long Tailed Tit, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Wren, Goldcrest, Sparrow Hawk, Nuthatch, Tufted Duck, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Water Rail and of course a stunning Bittern.

Saturday's Ringing Session

Today was all about the Winter Thrushes with many birds still in good numbers at this particular site.We had a good morning for Redwing 39 and a single Fieldfare, but it slowed down during the course of later morning with a single Goldcrest at the end of the session (another spectacular day for Winter Thrushes). We were joined by Catherine and Lilly who are Ecology students.

The totals for the day were Redwing 39, Fieldfare 1, Blackbird 1 (1), Goldcrest (1), Wren (1), Blue Tit 6 (8), Great Tit 1 (2), Coal Tit (1), Goldfinch 1, Chaffinch 2, Bullfinch (1), Greenfinch 18 (1) .

 The people who own the the site also have some livestock and we always stop to see the pigs and piglets, I think they are Saddle Backs.

Epic weekend!


  1. Sounds like you had a superb day out Findlay, your photos of the Bittern are fantastic, you must have got really good views of it

  2. No joy for me looking for the bittern at our nature reserve this evening and we never get pics like those, ours are usually a long way off on the other side of the lake.
    Well done



  3. truly an awesome sighting - and great title. :)

    love the pigs, too!

  4. That is just how you should see a fantastic bird like that. The best ones are when they find you rather than the other way round. Being a Suffolk boy I have seen a lot of Bitterns but I have no idea whether you can sex them.

  5. Findlay I have just been looking at your pictures again. The thick brown striping on the neck suggest your bird might be an American Bittern. The latter is rare in UK but does turn up in winter. Worth getting this checked.

  6. Hi Findlay, you're great pictures of the Bittern are incredible. You must of been close.

  7. Hi Findlay! I think this is an american bittern.
    Please can you let me know where you found it for further observation.

  8. I could be wrong but looking at the images provided I might say that's a normal Bittern and not an American, the bill is too short and stubby/fat and not narrow and thin also the brown stripe on the neck doesn't extend as far down as on American Bittern...unless it's a juvenile....I could be wrong.
    Great bird Findlay.

  9. What an amazing find on your patch Findlay. Well done.
    I tend to agree with Doug on which species. I'd say our regular Bittern; but a cracking bird nonetheless.

  10. Glad that you connected with the Bittern & that the info I gave your mum helped you see it. It has been present since the last week in October so may stay but the reedbeds are unusually small for this species. I have watched it several times at length & it is a Eurasian Bittern.Three of us patch-watchers are watching it almost daily now so I will keep your family informed. Glad again to have helped, as you say a great bird on our doorstep!

    1. Thank you for your help finding it. From findlay

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  12. Findlay....Your Bittern is an adult and sexually inseparable, but the juvenile - which is like an adult - has a brown crown and shorter brown moustachial stripe, which are black on the adult. I think some opinions would have it that there is a difference between male/female in bill, but I'm not aware of any differences.

    Apologies for the delete above.

  13. Excellent set of pics of the Bittern Findlay , great bird to see .

  14. A wonderful sighting Findlay.. well done.

  15. Hi Findlay

    Richard Crossley has looked at your pictures and has concluded that your bird is an Eurasian Bittern so false alarm. He does though suggest that if you are lucky enough to it fly take note of the wing pattern and flight feathers.

  16. Well, Findlay, I know you manage to have some spectacular weekends, but it seems that that one was totally amazing! I'd love to see a Bittern that close. My congratulations to the photographer (your Dad?) for the excellent captures.

  17. Findlay you just ruined my day..... lol

    Would be a lifer for me! I am tempted to make the journey on Sunday to stake out this wonderful species.


  18. How exciting to see new birds!

  19. A lovely WBW post, great work!

  20. Findlay, another wonderful post. You compiled an impressive list of birds spotted!

    Your Bittern is spectacular! I was recently fortunate to have spotted an American Bittern and although not rare here in Florida, it's not very common to see them. (I included a photo in our blog:

    Thanks again for a very interesting post!

  21. Clever title, Findlay! Great captures of that hard-to-spot bird.

  22. You are one very interesting lad I must say, always busy and the Bittern...what a beauty you got to view and photograph!

  23. hi Finlay. Well done finding and getting shot of this lovely bird.

  24. Great bird the Bittern - I had a great run with them once at Leighton Moss - which made up for (well maybe not) always missing the Bearded Tits!

    Next year maybe!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne