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

more impostors

Fake Egrets

Fake egrets try to act nonchalant at Masonville Cove, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. [See also: Fake Heron]

rare bird visits u.s., gets killed by car

It sounds like it could be a headline from The Onion, except that it’s true.

This past week, an ultra-rare Corn Crake, a field-dwelling bird elusive even its usual Eurasian range, showed up on Long Island in New York State, where there have been only two records of this species in the past 129 years, the last one in 1963. Two days later the bird was found dead, having been hit by a car, with fractures in both hind limbs and pelvis.

In America, where we live by the car and die by the car, no one is safe on the roads, no matter how unusual or rare you are.

Last week, partly in response to the recent terrorist act in New York City where a man drove a truck onto a popular bike path, killing 8 people and injuring 12 others, BikeSnobNYC author Eben Weiss penned an editorial for The Washington Post. His primary point is that an act like this will not scare NYC cyclists off the road because they already risk their lives in the face of vehicular violence every single day. He then goes on to name-check several NYC cyclists who have died on the road in recent years. While Weiss is speaking in particular on behalf of NYC cyclists, his point applies across the country. In 2015 alone, 818 U.S. cyclists were killed by vehicular violence. And it’s worse for pedestrians: in that same year 5,376 pedestrians died in motor vehicle crashes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a cyclist, a pedestrian, or a rare bird. When people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, whether intentionally or not, they weaponize themselves. In the wake of this most recent terrorist attack, discussions have arisen in New York about whether to ban motor vehicles altogether in high pedestrian and cyclist traffic areas such as Central Park. And while it’s unfortunate that it takes extreme acts like the one that happened in NYC for civic leaders to sit up and consider taking steps toward better protecting pedestrians and cyclists from automotive danger, at least they are now paying better attention. Let’s hope that it moves beyond just talk.

impostor!

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

friday at black marsh and environs

Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Little Blue Heron at Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Little Blue Heron at Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Box Turtle at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Box Turtle at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Spicebush Swallowtail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Spicebush Swallowtail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Cottontail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Cottontail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Not depicted: (1) the Eastern Ratsnake that beat a hasty retreat from the trail it was attempting to cross when it sensed my approach; (2) the White-tailed Deer fawn that bolted from its hiding spot adjacent to the trail as I came upon it; (3) the 30+ other species of birds I saw and/or heard.

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