Sunday, 2 October 2011

Once Bittern et cetera,...

We found ourselves up island in Nanaimo over the weekend, to celebrate our friend Dave's Canadian citizenship success. A boozy night of jollity and japes ensued.
While Jenny went off to sort out some business early this afternoon, I sought out some clear air and a few birds with a trundle around Buttertubs Marsh.

Wildfowl numbers were pretty unremarkable, but there was a decent showing of species: ring-necked duck, wood duck, hooded merganser, northern shoveler, mallard, gadwall, green-winged teal and American wigeon were all present. Pied-billed grebes and a few American coot were also seen around the site.
Water levels were relatively high, meaning that there was little in the way of exposed boggy areas to attract rails, waders, etc. I heard a couple of Virginia rails, but none showed themselves.
Scanning from the raised viewing platform I spotted something in the distance that looked rather interesting. Large, brown and streaky, and shaped something like a teardrop, it was an American bittern!

When I lived in Nanaimo I spent hours at Buttertubs Marsh looking for these bloody things, and here I am casually dropping by in the middle of a Sunday afternoon and finding one sat out on the edge of the vegetation. Unfortunately I didn't have my 'scope with me, and so had to content myself with fairly distant bins-only views of the bird as it busily preened and stretched.
The customary crappy photo here (blown up quite a bit) gives you an idea of just how far away the thing was.
This was actually the first American bittern that I have seen in North America - the last one I saw was a vagrant in Blackpool, Lancashire in 1991!
Other interesting birds of note seen while at Buttertubs included a party of 6 greater white-fronted geese that dropped in, while passerine highlights included reasonable numbers of yellow-rumped warblers, and 2 orange-crowned warblers.   

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