Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Sighting of a Rare Creature

Q-Ponz and I went kayaking over the weekend. He just purchased his kayak and being somewhat new to the area, I invited him to go to Mazonia for his virgin dip in the drink. Since I am now "seasoned" to the maze-o-lakes a.k.a. Mazonia, I was more than happy to be his adventure guide. I wanted him to experience what I did just a few weeks prior, exploring the unknown, charting new territory like Louis and Joliet. We went through the finger lakes, not stopping until we went from end to end, mapping a complete lake to check off our list of lakes. We paddled at a leisurely pace for hours, contemplating each turn into the depths, checking landmarks so we didn't get lost. As we entered a particular lake, overtaking an unusually long reed tunnel, something caught my eye in the sky. I got a pretty good look at something "heron-like" but tiny, and buff colored, flying into the reeds ahead. As I pointed this out to Q, another one flew into the same spot. We both were puzzled as to what it could have been. We floated into some nearby reeds, hoping to catch another glimpse, and waited for a few minutes in silence. A very loud call came out, sounding to me a bit like a duck, but not. Now, I have some pretty good knowledge of shore/wading birds, but this one was new to me. I could only draw a conclusion that maybe it was a baby green heron, but that didn't sit well at all. Green Herons are much smaller than the common Great Blue Heron, as they stand about 14" compared to the GBH at 42". This new heron was much smaller than even a Green Heron, and the coloring was all wrong. I had to reference what we saw when I got home.
At home, I grabbed my bird book, found the heron section, and turned the pages. I didn't have much hope, because this particular book didn't show babies, just adults and juvy's. After a few pages, I think I found what I saw. The description of this heron was spot on. It described it as buff in color, and the smallest of the North American Herons. It stands at 11" and has a distress call similar to the alarm quack of a duck. This treasure among herons is called a Least Bittern. They are reed seeking marsh birds who are the most elusive of all herons, rarely seen in flight, which is only a few seconds before it drops out of sight into march patches and reeds. They are not typical of heron behavior, being a fisherman of the shore in shallow waters. They prefer dense marshy lakes, and fish within the marsh beds for crayfish, etc., using their strong toes to cling to reeds in deep water.
If only my camera were repaired, would I ever have a chance to capture this once in a lifetime opportunity and bring it home to Hannibal's Animals. For now, I can only copy a reference photo for you to see this smallest of herons, and compare to the more common birds in the heron family. There are 2 types of Bitterns, and being a heron enthusiast, I have always wanted to see any type I have yet to see. There is the American Bittern, which is a large heron, and the Least, of which I have already spoke. The types I have captured are the Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, Black Crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, and the Yellow Crowned Night Heron (seen while on vacation in St. Thomas, although they are supposedly in this area). There are plenty more that are not native to this state, and keep to the warmer year-round climates. I eventually would like to see them on a vacation to their neighborhood.

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