Archive | August 26, 2019

New Birds at the Ponds

Savannah Sparrow

The American Bittern is a relatively common inhabitant of cattail marshes, but you would never guess it from its secretive nature and remarkably cryptic camouflage. Streaked in various shades of brown ranging from chestnut to cinnamon, with patches of white and beige on its underside, this bird blends into the dry, dead reeds and grasses of early spring. It is less flamboyant than the grayish-blue and white of the Great Blue Heron or the dazzling white of the Great Egret, and does not hunt out in the open the way these two relatives do. If I’m lucky I might catch a glimpse of one flying over a marsh, or – rarely – see one in the reeds at the edge of the open water. Most of the time I find them in the spring when they give their characteristic throaty, gulping “oonk-ka-choonk” calls from deep within the cattails. These iconic calls have led to the bittern receiving some unusual nicknames including “stake-driver,” “thunder-pumper,” and “water-belcher.”

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