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American Bittern and Migration Beginnings

Published April 16, 2015
Tags: General Observations, American Bittern, Brown Thrasher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Fox Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Common Gallinule, Caspian Tern, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, White-tailed Deer, Tifft Nature Preserve

My former nemesis, the American Bittern, was seen at Tifft Nature Preserve the other day.  It was right out in the open, I heard!  This elusive and secretive wading bird had eluded me for four years, so I couldn't resist seeing if I could get a close glimpse of this wonderful bird!

I missed him my first time around, but I got a couple of FOY (first of year) birds that had just arrived to Western New York: a pair of Brown Thrashers, a Common Gallinule (thanks to Dean DiTomasso), a calling Virginia Rail, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Migration is obviously well underway, and these new, FOY sightings are always exciting for me!

The next day, on my second attempt, I sat and waited patiently again for the bittern to show. I ran into another birder who pointed me in the right direction and, after encouraging him to sit down and allow the bittern to gain trust, the bird soon showed.  He hunted right in front of us and I was able to catch a few photos of it with his prey in his beak. Unfortunately, the show was over when the other birder went to the edge of the railing for more photos; of course, the bittern quickly disappeared. BUT - I was more than satisfied with the closest experience I've had to date with this large wader!

Continuing through the preserve, I saw a couple of Fox Sparrows (finally!) and was serenaded again by a singing Brown Thrasher.
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American Bittern intently hunting
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Looks like it has its eye on something
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It snagged a minnow!
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This fishy is doomed!
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Down the hatch!
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Gulp!
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Fox Sparrow (poor photo - sorry!)
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Fox Sparrows (another poor photo!)
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Singing Brown Thrasher
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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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Blue-winged Teal
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Green-winged Teal
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Hooded Mergansers
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Common Gallinule
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Caspian Tern
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White-tailed Deer