Monday, 1 January 2018
Bird, part bird (7); Bucks 27th December 2017
I'm a bit of a cryptic crossword kind of guy (as long as they're not too difficult) and one of my favourite clues of all time (sad? Me?!) is Bird, part bird (7 letters). The answer will be obvious pretty soon.....
Mrs Caley and I settled into the less than salubrious hide at one of our local nature reserves in the hope of seeing those reed bed specialists and the answer to 5 across. One year previously to the day we had fabulous views here and we were hoping for more of the same. However, despite them being reported regularly, we were less than confident since we'd already tried three times this winter with no success. We needn't have worried though since within 10 minutes of arriving we had filled in half of the crossword!
A bittern appeared as if by magic (well noticed by Adam because I hadn't spotted it despite studying that area just moments previously!) at the edge of one of the channels (left hand) and stood hunched up and statue like while it gazed around. I rattled off a few frames knowing that the shots would be good because bitterns are big enough even for me to focus at properly.
After a few moments of no movement the bittern suddenly exploded into the shortest haul flight imaginable and landed a full 6 feet away from where it took off from but safely at the other side of the channel. It then rose up to its full height, ruffled a few feathers out and then stalked off into the reeds. It briefly showed itself next to an old tree stump and then promptly disappeared, which is remarkable considering how small the reed bed is!
We expected that that would be that but some expert fellow birders from Banburyshire who had joined us in the hide spotted another bittern half secreted in the reeds to our right, so definitely a second and different bird. I had scanned the exact same spot just seconds before so either I really am hopeless at finding birds or this bird had again just materialised out of thin air.
They are so well camouflaged that they are able to appear and disappear just by moving a few inches so I didn't feel too bad at overlooking it. This bittern was noticeably paler than the first. Again the bittern stood unmoving for some time before slowly moving off into the reeds.
I had a hunch though that it would seek out a small inlet that runs into the reeds nearby and emerge at the edge of the right hand channel. Which it duly did! This time instead of flying to the other side it chose to wade through the water allowing extended and crippling views before it merged into the reeds again.
Wow! We'd seen two fabulous bitterns in the space of half an hour. Neither showed again though but we were treated to a good show by one of the resident water rails while we waited.
Some reports have suggested that there are 3 or possibly even 4 bitterns present at the site this winter which is incredible since the reed beds really are very small.
Looking forward to the 27th December 2018 already although in truth we'll be back before then I'm sure. And if you still need an explanation (if you're even bothered) Bird, part bird = bit tern. Obviously.