When I heard on Saturday that the Least Bitterns had returned and nested in the reeds by the bridge at Gilbert Water Ranch, you couldn't keep me in bed. Up early, I wanted to get a look at the three chicks. What would they look like? How would they hold on to the reeds.
I always thought of this bird as an east-coast bird since I had seen one -and only one- of these tiny rail-like birds of the reeds at my favorite marsh in Grandview (Virginia). So, I was thrilled to observe the LEAST BITTERN last summer when three of them spent much of their time at the Water Ranch public Fishing Pond!
The adult bittern is about the size of a rubber football (without its neck extended). Both last year and today, the birds were not shy as long as we observed appropriate bird etiquette. One photographer was accompanied by his young daughter, also with camera.
Having arrived at 5:30 a.m., two of us watched an adult LEAST BITTERN fly from the reeds in front of us across the lake to another stretch of reeds. Within ten minutes, it flew back with some food for the babies. One of the young had poked its fuzzy head out of the reeds but pulled back. It was probably waiting for that food.
A little before 6:00, a baby LEAST BITTERN perched on the reeds in front of us.
|LEAST BITTERN CHICK|
The young heron-rail-like bird will live much of its life within reeds like these. It walks around on the reeds barely moving them. They're very secretive and hard to see.
|An adult LEAST BITTERN appears to be gently helping the young bird maintain its hold|
(the extra eye behind the chick--different color in adult)
|Looking this way and that, the chick had to see the group of photographers within 20'|
|Looking everywhere - even up in the air. LEAST BITTERN CHICK|
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