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Monday, 9 April 2018

American Bittern after 7 hour stint

On Sunday 8th April, having just 4 hours of sleep after getting home at 12.30am after Rob & Erin's wedding reception celebrations (a wonderful occasions and so please dot be able to share their special day with them and many mutual friends), I was up at 4.30pm and put in 5 hours and 10 minutes in the hope of seeing a totally unexpected but very welcome American Bittern that had been superbly photographed by Gavin the previous evening at 6pm. He had posted it on twitter as a Bittern and then this had been correctly id'd by Rob H and others. It was a very overcast day with initial spells of light rain. Praying in the main car park, I had a brief chat with Matt & Rob H. There was absolutely no sign of the bird during my first stint. However Matthew D spotted a distant male Ring Ouzel perched on top of a distant tree. A Kestrel also perched on top to the right of the bush was causing the Thrush to pump its tail in alarm. The white breast crescent clearly seen and a great indicator of what the bird was from this distance. I left at 11.10am during light rain. Inevitably tweets came through of the bird showing at 12.32pm and 1.25pm and by 2.30pm I was back. This time I had to park in the overflow car park. The field to the swest of the old dilapidated barn where there was already some 40 cars. I joined a throng of 160 or so birders. We had several sighting of 10+ Swallows flying past including a group of 5. Chinese Water Deer seen occasionally. Finally at 4.32pm after a long cumulative wait of just over 7 hours the bird was called seen in flight I initially got onto a Crow but then switched to the bird, an absolutely fantastic American Bittern and huge relief all round! What stood out for me, initially was the very dark flight feathers contrasting with the very pale wing coverts showing a very stark contrast between the two groups of wing feathers (wing coverts) pale versus the very dark primaries, secondaries and primary coverts) plus pale buff trailing edge wedge to these feathers, clearly seen. It showed thick dark stripes on the breast and flanks and a fine longish bill (appearing slimmer than Eurasian Bittern) and distinct head markings and a brown crown, it flew from left to right, for around 15 seconds, it flew towards the bush, it wheeled around in a semi- circle and pitched into the reeds just to the left of the bush. Great mutual congratulations with Rob & Erin, Paul & Jane and others after a mind numbing 7+ hours of waiting! Just 50 minutes later, it ran across the open area staying crouched down as it went by (I didn't see the bird on the deck during this brief sighting as I had sadly stood on the left side of the group, wrong side of the ditch! A bird then flew away called by some as the American Bittern at 5.20pm, but it was a bigger more squat bird, with only very slightly darker flight feathers and a more homogenous brown and squat appearance, making it a Eurasian Bittern in my book (and most of the people I spoke to agreed), my first for the site and for Lowestoft proper! Other birders said they saw a Eurasian Bittern in a field where we saw it pitch down.

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