Friday, September 27, 2013

The Bittern that wasn't!

On the elevated nature paths on the yellow trail, left of the hawk observation deck at Cape May Point State Park, I spotted an American Bittern, so I thought, ruffled and quiet. It was located down left of the bridge in the canal that proceeds on to Lighthouse Pond East and looked a bit pensive. 

After getting some shots, I changed lenses, and aimed high to catch a juvenile Northern Harrier soaring by, with its dark head and "cinnamon-orange" body (Hawks in Flight by Dunne, Sibley, Sutton, p. 182). In each shot, it looks like its eyes are closed? 

I then trained my lens back to the Bittern and so glad I did. 
It had sprung to life and was hunting and then . . 

was attacking something in the water! 

After dunking it many times, I could make out that it was a hapless frog.

It then gulped it down and here, a leg is the last bit to be seen.

I hurried home and downloaded these pictures. I checked my Sibley Guide to Birds to be certain of my ID that I felt confident about and I found that actually this was not an American Bittern at all!! 

The coloration is similar, but no bold stripes or long neck!

I flipped a few pages over and there it was. 

It was a Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. 

Sibley's helpful progression was invaluable for the identification - the orange eye, the sharp yellowish bill, the large white spots on the wings, etc. 

I was astonished of how much this bird changes from a juvenile to an adult. 

1 comment:

  1. That's an incredible transformation for a bird! Great picture sequence as well!!