American Bittern

April 11 2017. RBG Arboretum Hamilton, ON. Good birds came tumbling in today. I did a walk around one of my favourite woodland and lake routes and was almost breathless at the sight and sound of new arrivals. The day before a blast of warm air pushed up from the south and it must have swept a lot of anxious migrants along with it. I tallied forty species, many old familiars of course but within a few minutes of getting started I found a Yellow-rumped Warbler. In a week or two they’ll be commonplace, but today it was a treat. I wonder just how far south it had overwintered; every year a scant handful is seen to stay with us but few survive.

Within a few minutes I’d added American Tree Sparrows, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and White-throated Sparrows to my notes. Then a pair of Rusty Blackbirds flew up in front of me, a good sighting at any time. They were feeding around the margins of a squishy woodland edge, typical Rusty Blackbird habitat.

Much farther along I spotted a small bird flitting high in a White Pine, as I examined it and was searching my mental database, a large and noisy military plane flew almost overhead distracting us both, but I wrote down Pine Warbler with a question mark; not sure. But then I heard it and others singing; delete question mark. First of the spring.

Out across the lake I could barely make out a small duck-like thing. Again I struggled to make an identification. At times like this I’ll sometimes use my little camera’s long zoom to see what I can make of the grainy image. It worked, I satisfied myself that it (actually they) were Pied-billed Grebes. Here’s the evidence, you’ll need to look closely.

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Finally my Bird of the Day was an American Bittern. It surprised me by exploding into purposeful flight from a small marsh just in front of me. I was almost shocked at the luck and improbability of seeing it and for that shock value it was my Bird of the Day. But the Yellow-rumped Warbler, Rusty Blackbirds,Pine Warblers and Pied-billed Grebes all tied for a very close second place for welcome-back value.

Eastern Phoebe

There were of course many more interesting birds which, at other times, would be special for any number of reasons: Carolina Wrens in full song, an Eastern Phoebe, a busy Rubycrowned Kinglet, Doublecrested Cormorants – 185 of them! a pair of American Wigeon, a flotilla of Common Mergansers and a very vocal Pileated Woodpecker – heard but not seen.

American Wigeon

One thought on “American Bittern

  1. Wow!!!
    I’m envious! I was seeding the slope today & dying to go to the Arb. A physically challenging task with a recovering back injury & no car to go up & down the hill from York + my usual 3 hr. hike around the Arb. Aaaarg!!! I gotsta find me a drive!
    Ya, the seeding was challenging with my injury, too, however I really pushed myself and it was a huge & fun labour of love.
    I’m also sorry I missed your presentation yest! Some troubles with my friend who’s 103 & doing awfully well, for the poorer shape she’s gotten in 🙁
    Happy Spring birding!

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