American BitternMay 5, 2010

Last week, Sue and I had reached the edge of Toftrees pond when Sue saw a burst of brown leave the reeds. We guessed heron immediately, but the first views were discouraging: The bird flew directly opposite us.
American bittern

The bird didn't turn until reaching the forest area on the far side, a thousand feet away, and then flew behind the trees.

But a minute later (and to our surprise), the bird flew back toward us. Flying below tree top level, it was partially in and out of sight. At that point I managed to get a few fair images.

At home I identified it as an American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), which is a rare visitor to the pond in central Pennsylvania. (For some reason, we never carry a field guide with us.)

American bittern
  As is often the case, one of the better images came when I was shooting through branches.
American bittern

The clearest views (but the worst for color values) came when the American bittern was between me and the sun.
American bittern

And then the bittern left the pond area.

Would it circle and come back? Maybe, but other birders haven't reported seeing the bittern there in the days afterward.

American bittern

Well, I hope the American bittern returns. I'd enjoy another photo op.

Photo note: I used a Pentax K200D, with the SMC 1000mm reflex lens, on April 30, 2010.

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