Monday, July 13, 2009

Did I just see what I thought I saw?

Well, yes, I did see Dragonflies [update 6/2/2011 thanks to Dave Leatherman for pointing out that this is a Damselfly, not a Dragonfly, specifically an American Rubyspot] on Thursday evening, but that isn't really what had me thinking while I walked in the late day sunshine.

I had stopped to revisit a section of the Coal Creek Trail system rather than sit in traffic at rush hour. While I was walking I received a phone call and was busy talking when something big flew up into a tree from a quiet bend in the creek. With a "I just saw a really cool bird, I'll call you back..." I hung up and started shooting what I could see in the overhead branches.

Seeing the image now and knowing what I do the species is clear, but without the advantage of a full frame and just the size, shape, stripes and a hint of orange I immediately thought I was on to one of the birds I have been keeping an eye out for. A Bittern!
I got about 15 frames before the bird decided that even its treetop perch was too close, and flew off along the trail, in the general direction of the parking area where I had started.
After having inadvertently startled the bird I decided to give it a rest, continue on in the direction I was headed, and try to relocate it before I left.

As I walked I kept thinking, did Bitterns really roost in trees? From what I have seen of them online they frequent grassy wetlands where their stripes give them great camouflage. I held some guarded optimism for the sighting as I returned near the end of my walk. As I got close I kept an eye out, alternating looks between the creek itself and the canopy above. Before long I saw another large bird rise from the limbs, about the same size, but immediately recognizable in adult plumage. A Black-Crowned Night Heron. I held out hope for a few seconds that it might have been a coincidence, that perhaps they were both just in the same area. Sure enough though, seconds later the same bird with the brownish striped markings flew off as well. the two made on brief landing farther down stream, but were off again due to a passing car and soon out of sight.
So instead of a first American Bittern I had my first juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron - and really that was just as good. Between that and the dragonflies it sure beat sitting in traffic.

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