On the way over to Wonthaggi from Phillip Island
this morning I noticed the Powlett River had risen quite a lot after recent rain
covering low lying paddocks, so on the way home in the afternoon I decided to
drive down to the carpark near the Mouth of the Powlett and check the area out
The water had covered all the salt marsh which is
usually exposed and the were only a few small grebes on the water and some
silver Gulls and ibis and White-faced Herons and Masked Lapwings in the
paddocks. On the trip back to the main road I glanced to the right among
some shallow inundation between the carpark and the bridge I noticed an unusual
shape slinking through the water near some Knobby Club Rush. The brakes
went on, naturally, and I recognised a shape I had only seen in bird books up
till now - a Bittern!
I moved the car to a position where I wasn't
blocking the road completely and watched this wonderful bird for about ten
minutes as it poked around the clumps of Club Rush freezing every few moments
with its beak pointing skywards. this gave me plenty of time to study the
beautiful markings down its throat, its very dark (almost black) back and a
lovely patch of rufous behind its eye.
I only had the set of Gould League bird books in
the car at the time, (but I always have at least one pair of binoculars with
me!) and the nearest I could find was Brown Bittern (now called
Australasian). The illustration was a considerably lighter brown than
the bird I had in front me.
While I watched it from the car, 10-20 metres away,
it would keep an eye on me but generally continue on it's way relatively
undisturbed, occasionally darting its head into the water for a morsel of food,
I presume. A couple of cars passed me and it didn't even flinch.
Then a local stopped to ask what I was looking at and got out of his car to
see. Unfortunately the bird took off and flew over the road and back
towards the dunes and a large area of wetland/saltmarsh, but its slow,
heron-like flight was able to be observed.
The local turned out to be a farmer, Clive Hollins,
who owns a fair bit of land in the vicinity. He said it was darker than
the ones he has in the wetland on his farm, so we exchanged phone numbers, and
set off for our respective homes to check the bird books. After studying
all the books I had at home I have concluded it was a mature
Australasian Bittern, Now to tell the world!