The Magic of a Marsh
Shortly before 7:00AM I was out at Sweet Marsh today. My goal was to find and photograph the American bittern or bitterns I have been hearing during recent visits. American bittern sighting/photography success would not come easy, and as it turned out, I never did find an American bittern. However, my time at the marsh was simply outstanding. While I may not have found an American bittern, what I did find were three shorebird species that, at least for the soras, are more often heard than seen. The other two species – a Virginia rail and a least bittern – are even more difficult to find and photographing them is even more challenging. But, the Good Lord put me in the right spots at the right time and I was able to shoot many photos of all three species.
Sora – That I shot pictures of soras today was not a surprise. I have heard many and seen about one-third of those that I have heard. The challenge was to find them in a location suitable for photography. I heard soras near a small mud flat, so I parked my camo-covered kayak nearby and waited. It did not take long before a sora came out to feed in the muck.
Sora at Sweet Marsh:
Virginia Rail – Years have passed since I have seen or photographed a Virginia rail. Today I saw three and photographed two of them! Like the sora, the Virginia rail worked the same mud flats.
Least Bittern – Finding and photographing this elusive species was remarkably easy. I was parked in the cattails waiting for an American bittern to make a noise when this least bittern approached. At times the bird was four feet or less away. In fact, it was so close that I had to change to a shorter lens since the bird was too close for my long lens to focus. The bird and I spent 30-45 minutes together. I finally left because of a commitment. I think an explanation of how difficult it is to see and photograph least bitterns is necessary. To put this into perspective, I last photographed a least bittern 19-years ago!
Take a look at this quote from “Allaboutbirds.com”… “A tiny heron, furtive and surpassingly well camouflaged, the Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot. Despite its inconspicuousness, however, the species can be rather common within appropriate habitat in its breeding range.”
Not only was I able to spot a least bittern (I noticed its beak first), I was able to record many pleasing images of this impressive bird!
Least Bittern at Sweet Marsh:
I really had a great time at Sweet Marsh this morning. Seeing three rather difficult to find species was quite fun. Add plenty of photos being created and I am ready to do it again.