Wednesday, April 11, 2018

It's all about the timing

Since the American Bittern was found at SWT Carlton Marshes on Saturday, I was dying to go but realluy couldn't. First, I had to finish and hand-in my PhD thesis, which I did on Monday. Then, parenting duties prevented me from going till today when I packed my kids and dragged them to foggy Suffolk. Against all odds, with the bad weather, long difficult walk through the mud with an 8 y.o. and 4 y.o. both tired, in the least exciting section of the reserve, I (we) got lucky. My brave kids survived the walk. We got to the spot where the bird was last seen. Tens of birders stood around for several hours, including my mates James and Will, waiting for the bird to show. I literally put my camera down when the bird jumped up and took off! I got on it in my bins, flying away about 250 m away - what I noticed instantly was the prominent trailing edge and plain primaries. I quickly switched to my camera and fired off a few shots in the gloom until the bird dropped into the reedbed and out of view. I couldn't believe my luck, neither did many of the others who had been standing there for hours.

I am almost embarrassed to present these images here, especially in comparison to results of other luckier photographers in previous days (see brilliant images by Steve Gantlett and Craig Shaw), but hey - these are the best I could get, and the bird is even identifiable! Buff trailing edge, plain primaries, brown back and slender bill are all apparent in these images - can you see them? With some imagination it is perhaps possible to notice the lack of dark cap, and even a pale supercilium? Or is this just wishful thinking?

All these images are huge crops - this is an original file, for perspective:

Most of the crowd dispersed after this poor show, but myself, my kids and few other friends decided to stick around for a bit longer, hoping the bird would repeat its show from previous evenings and return to its favourite ditch. It didn't, and eventually I ran out of bribe sweets and walked back with my wonderful kids. 
I will certainly try to return for seconds, when the weather improves and if the bird sticks around. But for the time being, a tick is a tick - nice addition to my WP list.

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