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Thank you for dropping by to check out my blog. You will see a lot of other Blogs about birds I follow down the left hand side. I strongly encourage you to check some of these out as well, they are entertaining and I love to see birds from all over the world, I hope you do too.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A second Black Bittern experience.

Sometimes birding is weird. Even though the sighting of one bird might suggest a second sighting in a reasonable proximity is possible, or even likely, over 400 kms away is stretching things. However, that is what happened to me.

I'd never seen a Black Bittern before Saturday. I wrote about my first experience here. Today was sighting number 2. By road more than 420 kms to the south, at Lajamanu. I had already scared off 2 White-faced Herons, and a Pacific Heron stayed a lot further down the creek. There were Double-barred Finches coming down to drink, Grey-fronted, White-plumed, Yellow-tinted and Brown Honeyeaters flitting around, as well as Striated Pardalotes piping from the treetops, and the mournful cries of 5 or 6 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. A pair of Pied Butcherbirds seemed to completely ignore the alarmist honeyeaters, Willie Wagtails chatted away and a lizard went for a dunk in the creek before clambering up and scurrying away. All a pretty normal afternoon at Hooker Creek.

Settling in to my chair, compiling my e-bird list, a bird, a largish bird, appeared on my left side in my peripheral vision. The camera snapped into position and I stupidly fired off four or five shots before I even had a chance to focus. The last photo in the sequence was pretty much in focus and I could tell straight away it was yet another Black Bittern. Fully expecting it to continue on down the creek, I was ecstatic when it pulled up not far from me and landed in sight about half way up the tree. Unfortunately there were some pesky sticks in the way but I could see the bird clearly. At first it was fairly hunched over, then it straightened in a manner reminiscent of an emu, A weird sight. Hoping it would fly back from whence it came, I was overjoyed when it flew virtually across the river from me, alas via the backs of trees, butlanded in some tall grass. It slowly came out of the grass, very shyly, but standing quite upright. More photos, these ones even better than any from today or Saturday. I think I started to tremble. I always get excited when opportunities like this arise. The camera was having trouble focusing as the grass behind moved in the breeze. Then the Bittern squatted and flew up into the nearest very bushy tree. It stayed there for 10 or so minutes, before again flying to the ground, this time stalking behind the grass and a tree, until it flew up to the back of the trunk of the tree directly opposite me. After 30 seconds, it decided it would head back to its original location, and it disappeared from view.

I originally thought it was a male, but shadows can play tricks with both your eyes and the camera. Once I downloaded the photos it is obviously a female. A truly weird and wonderful experience. Hope you enjoy the photos. Make sure you check out photos 4 and 5. The two stances on the bough, and 1 and 2, the stances on the ground.

Black Bittern


  1. Hi Richard, awesome shots! I have been trying to find Black Bitterns for a while now! I think that the individual that you have there may also be a juvenile male as adult females, despite the duller brown, do not have the grey edges to their feathers as juveniles and this one does. it could be either one of them though.
    Ollie Scully.

    1. Thanks Ollie. As I wrote, my initial thought was a male, but the photos I took look nothing like the male from all the guides I have, so I was thinking female. Probably didn't read the descriptions in the books closely enough about the difference between the females and the juveniles as even the photos I saw of juvenile males look very dark. Appreciate your comments. I searched for two days to find the Australasian Bittern a while back with no success so I know a little of how you feel. Cheers, Richard

    2. Thanks Richard,
      you tend to get more Australasian Bitterns to the south, like in Victoria and SA. Assuming that you're travelling north, look out for Little Bitterns, as they are more common up there as well.
      Ollie Scully.