A Bit of a Story

Long term readers and those who have worked with me, will know I’m not a great Bird Chaser to get my numbers up.
I can recognise when I find a new bird, Commonly known among the best circles as “A Lifer”. But the thought of chasing a bird across miles/kilometers of country, just to get a fleeting glimpse or a slightly blurry photo that needs to be enlarged from a two pixel size, is not among my ‘must do this year’ things.
My birding, is much more the sitting quietly, enjoying the moment and appreciatting the birds in their world.

I’ve quoted Jon Young before, he of “What the Robin Knows”, so here we go again.
“Practice with the routine of invisibility, and growing respect, connection and San-like recognition, in the vernacular of the bird language, are secrets to close encounters”.

At Werribee Treatment Plant, its not unusual to have a car pull up, and the driver or passengers ask, “Have you seen THE Bittern”. Always THE, so is there only one? or are there more?
Mostly I can dumbly answer, “Sorry, haven’t seen it today!”, to be covered in a cloud of dust as they drive away to the next “opportunity”.

On a whim, we went to the T Section early on Thursday morning. The weather had been predicted to be below average, bordering on the catastrophic, but I’ve rambled enough on Weather Novelists, haven’t I. EE noted some sunshine and blue sky, and said let’s go, breakfast done, we did.

Crisp sunshine looked good, and a stiff breeze was only going to be cold, but that is what Drizabone is for.

It didn’t take the track near the ‘Crake Pond’ long to fill up with the usual 4WD convoys.
And then one of the group came down to where I was photographing a Willie Wagtail hovering in the strong breeze, and say, “They have found THE Bittern up by the pool, do you want to see it.”.

So we went. The Banjo would have approved.

Hardly gotten more than four steps, when our eager beaver counters had flushed it and what we go was a vision splendor (thanks Banjo) of it lopping across the bund to the other side of the large pond.


Much talk began of course, about the one seen on the Birdsville Track in 2001, when the floods were so deep, or the trip to the top end of Kakadu with the drought breaking rain just on arrival, or the time THE Bittern had flown across Lake Borrie and only one person saw it, or what about the time that ….

With glazed eyes I turned away, no one wants to hear, “Oh, I don’t chase Bitterns for a view”.

More revving and 4WD convoy moves off to look for perhaps the Pec Sandpiper or the Orange-bellied Parrot up near The Borrow Pits. Birders of course always have one more thing to find.

EE, applying her local knowledge born of some mystical science, not known to mere mortals, suggested that once the dust settled, we should go to the far end of the next track, then walk up along the edge of the bund, because—and wait for it…

She had seen where it had flown in, and was sure it was still there. Clever as.

We did.

Within a few moments. “See that log in the reeds!”  “Well wait a bit, it will move. See. Its not a rock, it’s the Bittern. (Said without the CAPTIALISED THE”.)

And of course I don’t have to write the next bit do I.

Here tis.


We waited. Then after about five minutes, the bird, like a coiled spring, leapt into the air.




And landed about 200m away


We decided that we had given it enough grief and headed back to the vehicle.  About halfway there, the bird decided to move on again, and flew past where we were standing.


PS, that is Avalon Airport Hangers in the background.


And as all romantic comedies end, there is a punch line.

It landed on the road, not far from our trusty Sir Percevale, which made both of us laugh, as if we’d have stayed at the car, we’d have had perfect light and view.
Gotta smile.


Enjoy We Did.

Not so sure if  THE Bittern did 🙂


14 thoughts on “A Bit of a Story

  1. A great narrative and fabulous shots, David. I would like to see a Bittern, any Bittern one day and will hopefully get the chance. I did wander up to the Heathdale – Glen Orden wetlands late last year after one of the Friends of the Wetlands sent me an image of a Bittern seen there, alas I didn’t see it. Maybe it was the one you saw, just passing through Hd-GO! I prefer to let the birds come to me rather than chasing them down as when I got to see one of the Brown Goshawks at Royal Park recently, it literally came to me, and then proceeded to pose for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David,
      Luck as much as anything plays it part on the day. It was indeed fortunate that it landed on the south side of the pond, the light was working for us that way.
      More power to those who spend the time to find the exotic. I am a photographer by background and training, so I’m often more interested in the staging of the shot than many others trying to build a bird list.


  2. G’day David. This one is what people call CLASSIC!
    I am of the same mindset like you, as far as chasing rare birds is concerned. I still remember the crowds in Karkarook Park a long time ago when it was my first stumping ground for first adventures with my D80 and a not-so-great 300 mm zoom. THE Bittern was there indeed and I could usually see it flying when the crowds were long gone. Unfortunately my skills and my gear were not up to it… And this is why my enjoyment of your story and great shots is twice as great. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Adam,
      Ahh the days of D80, now there was A camera. And probably a 70-300mm zoom as well. Been there, mine is still in a draw somewhere.
      And no doubt the earlier or later light was so much better for photography. Good story to remember in this day of high megapixels and exceptional lenses.
      I see Nikon are about to release a PF 500mm f/5.6. I wonder what I can auction off!!!
      Stay warm


  3. Great little birding story David! I am still looking for my first Bittern as they are not common here and are very elusive. You scored some good shots, especially flight. It is a great blessing when another birder shares their find with you. Have a great weekend and keep warm. We are in for some very cold winds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks AB. All the ones I’ve ever seen are hull down in the reeds and pretending to be a rock, or flying further and further away as we speak!
      By and large the birders that work the WTP are a pretty helpful bunch, and want to help others enjoy the find.
      Its raining here, and a good day to warm up some soup, make some toast and sit close to the heater. Oh, that we had an open fire!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, she of the eagle eyes! Bravo to both of you and your way of being with the birds. So much better than the convoys of 4WDs rushing around adding to their lists! Thanks for sharing the wonderful photographs you got.


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