Aus. Bittern at WTP

Subject: Aus. Bittern at WTP
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2006 15:45:21 +1000
Yesterday (21 Sept '06) Brian and I visited the Western Treatment Plant, in company with interstate friends Ken and Mary, who had never been there before. After entering via New Farm Rd, we were travelling east towards the Conservation Ponds and Borrow Pits, on 280 South Rd. We stopped at the first southward road intersection to see if there was anything in the ditch. This was at about 11.40 a.m.

A large, heavily-built grey-brown bird was climbing the bank immediately above the green plants in the ditch, about 10 metres away. When it saw us, it froze and held its beak and neck stiffly at 45 degrees. I realised it was a Bittern.

As we watched, standing still, it began to creep away, descending into the wet ditch and retreating a little way along it. We stayed still and Ken began to video-tape it.

It began to climb up the side of the ditch-bank, moving slowly and cautiously. We had excellent views of its rather thick and short greenish-yellow legs, large feet, the grey-brown back, the long brownish streak along its neck, the dark cap and the stout dagger-like bill. It gained the top of the bank and stood still for a moment behind a white-painted wooden frame. Then it took off and flew northwest for a short distance and dropped into the ditch on the north side of 280 South Rd. We were able to pick it out again, with difficulty because it was so good at impersonating dead sticks and weeds, and it was so well-camouflaged. It was now about 50 metres away.

This was only the second time I had ever seen one, and it was a new bird for the others. (My first was many years ago at the Carrum Sewage Works where it was startled into flight by a herd of cows). This was a much better sighting. I am waiting to see how the video comes out.

After that, everything else at the WTP seemed a bit of an anti-climax, even the two Brolgas seen in the paddock north of Paradise Road.

Incidentally, the picture in Pizzey's Field Guide is much more accurately coloured than that in Slater's.

Anthea Fleming
in Ivanhoe (Vic.)


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