Little Bitterns can be "Easy" to See

Subject: Little Bitterns can be "Easy" to See
From: Laurie & Leanne Knight <>
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2001 09:58:43 +1000
Conditions for bittern spotting at the Sherwood Arboretum were excellent
earlier this morning.  The sky was nice and overcast, with temps in the
mid 20s.

Prior to today, the only little bittern sighting I had at the SA was the
arse end of one flying into the reeds.  

Anyhow, this morning as I was wondering around bittern island [as
opposed to bush hen island] I camped for a bit across from the cove on
the river side where the bitterns had bee reported at before [and where
I'd had my previous glimpse].  This is not a good site for bittern
watching on fine days because you end up looking into the sun.

After five or so minutes without a hint of movement, I wandered around
the northern end of the lake, I had a nice view of the female bittern
opposite the second african tulip tree from the northern inlet.  I was
just scanning the water's edge and happened to plonk the nockers right
on her - she was standing out quite nicely in a horizontal posture and
made a stab after about 15 seconds and then walked into the reeds.

I then wandered around to the causeway between the lakes and again laid
nockers on the male right near the point.  I wouldn't have seen him with
my bare eyes, but he was very obvious in the nockers.  He was quite
interesting to watch.  He would squat on his reed or stick and then lean
forward and extend his neck like a leech before making a strike. 
Sometimes after making a strike, he would move into the reeds before

He was also relavitely mobile and he would move along a 5 metre stretch
of the island.  Little bitterns are smaller than you think [partly
because the field guide artists draw them about the same size as the
other bitterns].  These guys were the length and diameter of a peewee,
and watching the male step from reed to reed was a bit like watching a
buff banded rail.  The male was most obliging and showed off his neck
stripe, shoulder patch, belly, back, cap and legs.

I then wandered back to the northern end of the lake and watched the
female lurking for 5-10 minutes before wandering off to the river
[flushing a night heron from the reeds in the outlet creek] to have a
look at the riverside board walk.

The sun came out as I was walking back to the lakes and the temperature
immediately rose a couple of degrees.  I wandered back along the
causeway and found the male lurking in the shade of the cove about 5+
metres from the point.

The bottom line with the sherwood bitterns is that they aren't overly
shy - lots of dogs go walking within a few metres of their fishing
points. [I didn't see them freezing in the vertical posture].

 They are hard to see with the naked eye, but show up well when
magnified.  I think they are much easier to see when they are fishing as
opposed to loafing.  I also suspect, that like the bush hens, they are
more likely to be out on an overcast day than on a sunny day.

Regards, Laurie.
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