Monday, July 21, 2008

Goose Lake Bittern Chase

I have been hinting about good things to come out of Goose Lake for over a week now, and delivered on the bluebirds, but the intent was the bitterns that I was very excited about, and I'm surrendering the best photos I have, which isn't anything to brag about. But...Here's the story of the chase for bittern photos...

American Bitterns and Least Bitterns have been on my short list of "Life Birds" (if you want to talk in "birderspeak"). I have heard of American Bitterns being at Goose Lake for years, but have never ventured to the marsh for that particular reason, although I would scan the lake if I was walking by, only half-believing they were there...This year was different. Being that the last month has been dry--photowise--It was worth a look to make the hike. I took my buddy "Ridge" with me, and upon first approach, something small and "least bittern colored" flushed within the reeds. Ridge thinks to this day that it was a green heron, but I stand firm on its coloring being the bittern. How exciting! We took our seats at the top of the hill overlooking the lake and waited. We didn't venture down to the walking bridge as of yet, fearful that we might scare something else. As we sat there, we heard semi-distant calls from what we thought must be the Goose Lake-famous Sandhill Cranes. Oooh! This is getting good! It was absolutely amazing to hear the calls to eachother, but to see one within the reeds was impossible. We have been back since, for 3 straight days, and have yet to see one in the open. Come On! Anyway...We decided to walk down to the broken bridge after an hour or so, our luck would have it, an American Bittern flushed! This is the dark shot that I got:

Since that evening, we have been back 3 more times, 2 in the evening before sunset, and once at sunrise. No Sandhill Crane shots...But...We did hear them each day! O.K. Now lets talk about the next picture. The Least Bittern. We didn't expect to see one. But we did! We saw one flush almost every time we approached the lake. Least Bitterns are far less common than the uncommon American Bittern, so excitement at the prospect of finding one is an understatement. This is the only shot that has come out:

It just so happened, that on 2 occasions, as we were walking away from the lake, 2 Black-crowned Night Herons flew over our heads. And...If you don't know it, Black-crowned's are extremely shy birds, so for that to happen twice was unbelievable!

This Juvy followed its parent into the reeds. I don't think they were used to people being near their home.

It was very difficult, to say the least, to go out to the lake every day. Each day heated up to excede the 90 degree mark, which is why we chose the morning/evening hikes. The deer flies were horrible,--I mean it--Horrible! I put on all kinds of bug spray, with extreme deet content, which depreciates my health I am sure, and practically soaked a ballcap in the stuff to deter them away from my ears, face, and eyes. Believe me when I say they were all over my head! Swarmin' I say! Oh, and they bite...Hard! Every single step of the way was miserable! I have now decided that I just can't go back out there for awhile. I do want the Sandhill Cranes, but I am waiting for the deer flies to calm down. My head has been itching from the spray from 3 days ago, so I suspect the ballcap was saturated just a little too much and caused irritation to my scalp. Geez...I can whine alittle can't I? Sorry! But did I mention the ticks? No? We had a total of 8 of them on us... I will be back though...when the bugphobia subsides...maybe in a few weeks...the chase has only begun...


Shellmo said...

Fantastic shots!
(Bugs really put a damper on birding sad to say!)

Bird Girl said...

Oh man...I just read your entire post OUT LOUD to my hubby and he busted out laughing when I got to the last paragraph (sorry) It's just that we can relate! But 8 ticks? I don't know if I could ever go back after that - even for the cranes. You are a brave soul and you did GREAT! Can't believe you got the 2 night crowned herons and the bittern in flight! Hang tough ...I'll be waiting. Maybe you better get some new DEET sounds like yours was very ineffective - you may have gotten a dud! I was at the lake in the 90s last Sunday and no ticks or deer flies and we forgot our deet. My sister really got bit up in NC with her particular brand and I got none. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? I felt really bad for you!!!