a ‘two bittern’ day

 

An American Bittern 'skypoints' at Black Marsh Natural Area, North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA.

An American Bittern ‘skypoints’ at Black Marsh Natural Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

Bitterns are notoriously elusive wading birds. Members of the heron family, they blend in with the reeds common to areas which they frequent, particularly when they point their heads to the sky, exposing their long streaked throats (see photo at left). Throughout the winter I made quite a few fruitless expeditions to see this particular American Bittern, which was overwintering at Black Marsh. Finally, this past Friday my persistence paid off and I happened upon it actively feeding in relatively open water. I even saw it catch a fish, though unfortunately that wasn’t caught on video. I could easily have watched this bird all day. I find all herons fascinating to watch as they feed, and this bittern perhaps most of all, given how secretive it is and how many times I’d previously tried and failed to see it.

Coincidentally (or not), I had literally just come from another park where I’d seen the American Bittern’s smaller counterpart, the Least Bittern, which is perhaps even more difficult to get eyes on due to its diminutive stature. Given how unlikely it is that I will have another ‘two bittern’ birding day anytime soon, if ever again, a commemorative blog post seemed appropriate.

A Least Bittern does its best to avoid the camera at Patterson Park, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

A Least Bittern endeavors to avoid the camera at Patterson Park, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

odd bird juxtapositions

A mallard interfaces with a fish crow at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

A mallard attempts to interface with a fish crow at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

Sometimes during the many hours I spend observing birds I encounter interesting interspecies interactions, such as this one occurring between a male mallard and a fish crow. Crows are always fascinating to watch because they’re such curious and intelligent birds. I’m not exactly sure what this one was doing at first, but I think it had just dropped in for a quick drink. There were several mallards milling about in the vicinity, but this one particular drake made a beeline over to where the crow had perched. Who can say why? The crow didn’t appear to mind the proximity of the mallard as it indulged in the vulnerable activity of drinking. Neither, though, did it seem to share the mallard’s interest in perhaps forging some sort of connection. From my perspective, it was just one more example of what drives me out into the field over and over: one never knows what one will discover.

rare visitors from the north

Snowy Owl at Hart-Miller Island, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

Snowy Owl #1 at Hart-Miller Island, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

 

Snowy Owl at Hart-Miller Island, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

Snowy Owl #2 at Hart-Miller Island, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2018 S. D. Stewart

solitary sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper at Irvine Nature Center, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Solitary Sandpiper at Irvine Nature Center, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

[Despite their name, there were six of them feeding in close proximity to each other]

eastern towhee

Eastern Towhee (male) at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Towhee (male) at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female/immature type, at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female/immature type, Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

hooded merganser

Male Hooded Merganser at Quarry Lake, Pikesville, MD © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Male Hooded Merganser at Quarry Lake, Pikesville, MD © 2016 S. D. Stewart

excavation

 

Yesterday at a local nature center I found this Pileated Woodpecker performing some major excavation work on a partially dead tree. The bird was using its bill like a chisel to strip off huge swathes of bark. It had already uncovered the bare area to the right and was working its way clockwise around the tree. It would hammer on a section and then nimbly hop away just as a slab of bark separated from the tree and fell to the ground. I was hoping to catch one of these more dramatic moments, but had to settle for the fine-tuning it’s doing here.

friday black vulture party

Tree full of roosting Black Vultures, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Tree full of roosting Black Vultures.

Tree full of roosting Black Vultures, , © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Note how the vulture at center is doing the classic Snoopy vulture pose.

 

Black Vultures, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Black Vultures

the passing of time

You know two months have passed when it’s time to buy dog food. You know six months have passed when it’s time to visit the dentist. And speaking of the dentist, against your will you have now endured another session with the aggressively chatty hygienist. What happened is that the dentist’s office called you up while you were out birding on an (extended) lunch break, looking for an elusive Sora to be precise, and so you were distracted and had trouble understanding the person on the phone but managed to grasp that there was a cancellation and did you want to come in tomorrow. You weren’t sure, not particularly liking to make such decisions in a rushed manner (or at all), but also not particularly wanting to continue the conversation, so you said sure, okay, tomorrow is fine. You hung up and another birder pointed out the Sora which was good but then you went to the dentist the next day and it was the chatty hygienist instead of the one you prefer who has a Polish accent and does not barrage you with personal questions while probing between your teeth for plaque, but with whom you did have an enjoyable (short) conversation with six months earlier regarding the hospital seen through the window that as you were sitting there was being torn down, literally at that moment, and you both laughed about how you hadn’t even noticed when you sat down that it was now mostly gone, but after which you were made aware of it provided plenty of visual entertainment during your cleaning while a worker repeatedly employed a wrecking ball with vigorous effort in the demolition process. So now six months later there you are in the chair again and the chatty hygienist immediately begins her assault of questions, growing quite sassy in no time at all, perhaps a new record even for her, necessitating an accompanying increase in sass on your part, for one must maintain a similar tone in this type of repartee or else it swiftly fails, making the situation rather awkward and, let’s face it, if this person is going to have her hands in your mouth for the next 30 minutes it’s best you go along with the banter even though its personal nature is now increasing at a furious pace, as if she is now testing her ability to raise your ire, but your ire will in fact not be raised, it will actually refuse raising altogether because your ire is not easily raised and she is beginning to sense this and clearly it intrigues her, leading her to make verbal note of it, and so she keeps upping the ante, as they say, to the point where it does begin to grow rather tiresome leading you to hope very much for the appointment to end soon so that you can exit the building, get on your bike, and ride in the late afternoon mist the four miles uphill through the gathering traffic to your house where you must walk your dog, prepare dinner, eat dinner, brush your teeth, read a few pages in whatever book you’re currently reading, and go to sleep. And finally it does end, this intense scraping session with accompanying interrogation into your flossing habits coupled with theorizing on topics such as whether you are perhaps a mouth-breather at night because that tends to harden the plaque on the back of your lower front teeth and did you say you do use an electric toothbrushyes, you are eventually freed from this verbal bondage, but not before a certain amount of psychological damage is incurred, though nothing permanent, just enough to make you wish that the stealthy Sora had not distracted you in the first place leading to a split-second decision without full consideration of the possible ramifications, namely that you may, in fact, by taking someone else’s appointment other than your own, be unwittingly sabotaging yourself, directing yourself onto an alternate course whereby you are now penciled in for the duration of time with the overly chatty hygienist, after having just extricated yourself from somehow getting onto her schedule and having subsequently returned yourself to your proper place on the reticent Polish hygienist’s schedule where you in fact had long been penciled in, literally for years beforehand, and still can’t understand how you had suddenly been removed from in the first place. But alas, you won’t know your fate in this matter until another six months have passed, during which time you will have purchased another two, possibly three, bags of dog food, depending on how the calendar asserts itself.

  • Recent Posts

  • Navigation Station

    The links along the top of the page are rudimentary attempts at trail markers. Otherwise, see below for more search and browse options.

  • In Search of Lost Time

  • Personal Taxonomy

  • Common Ground

  • Resources

  • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS