Always with a Eurasian Bittern
A photo-bombing marsh harrier !
Here you can just see a Eurasian Bittern on the left with the American fluffing up, showing white powder puffs, displaying. I can't begin to tell you how far away they were.
Chinese Water Deer
Although the American Bittern was a new UK bird for us, it took us a full week before we finally made the decision to go and see it. The weather had been fowl for most of the week with rain and thick fog so as soon as it improved, off we went. We thought Sunday would be the best day with less farming traffic on the roads, but had we judged the weather right? Clear blue sky for 140 miles, then the last 10 miles we encountered fog that didn't want to lift. We found the reserve easily and were greeted by rangers and volunteers equipping us with a map and clear direction on where to head to and exactly where to stand. We were soon standing at the first view point, with plenty of other birders, chatting and laughing, a good crowd. But the weather was another kettle of fish with the fog refusing to lift and visibility virtually impossible. But we stuck it out and after a few hours we could feel and see the sun burning through the fog.
We had already seen a pair of very close Munjac and Chinese Water Deer were in the marsh infront of us. We watched them nearly all day. It was a new mammal for us, having never seen them before, so we were one tick up ! There were plenty of water voles in the ditch behind us so we had plenty to keep us occupied while we waited...and waited...and waited.
We had arrived at Carlton Marshes around 10am and it was a good 1pm before the fog lifted. Then it was all eyes on the marsh for a brown bird in a brown marsh which could be absolutely anywhere. There were a couple of viewpoints that looked out onto open ground in the marsh so 2 large crowds had the whole area covered with beady eyes. A bittern could be heard booming occasionally which gave everyone hope and the American Bittern was always seen with Eurasian Bitterns.
Soon the magic word was shouted 'BITTERN' that could only be seen from the second viewpoint. So, 100 birders ran up a muddy track as if they were in an Olympic race, hilarious. But we were all soon looking at the star bird that looked to be displaying to the eurasian bittern. They were very distant and could just be seen through binoculars, they were that far away, and with the grasses and reeds on a very grey day, viewing was anything but easy. They could be seen on the ground for some time, they certainly walked in and out the reeds alot before they had a short, very distant, fly round. Bird seen, job done!
We decided to wait a while longer, feeling that the birds were now active and may fly again and we were not disappointed. Within half an hour they were both up again and gave us a real good display. A brilliant day, a new bird, a new mammal, water voles, and a hen harrier gave us a flyby. The reserve was managed so well by very knowledgeable staff, they were all so friendly and helpful and we had a right laugh with them. The reserve manager explained all the water levels on the marsh, what they had achieved and all their aims for the future, a definite passion for the reserve which was one of the best we have ever been on.
We arrived home around 10pm, a 16 hour very enjoyable day taking Karen's UK tally to 405 x