Did you know American bitterns are surprisingly strong swimmers?

I stopped at a small marsh in Springfield Friday morning. I’d seen Canada geese there and wanted to take a few photos. An acquaintance was there and we talked a few minutes about other birds she’d seen. I sat down to watch the geese, two of them, hoping that if I stayed still for a few minutes they’d come closer. They didn’t care about me and went about their business. A third goose fed along the shore to my left, and when I turned my attention to that bird a fourth bird caught my eye – an American bittern.

American bitterns are one of my favorite birds. They blend into tall brown grass well, though not as well as they sometimes seem to think.The American bittern, a medium-sized heron, stood with its neck stretched, beak pointed to the sky. I took a couple of photos that didn’t turn out well because the bird was so far away before looking to see what the geese were up to. When I looked back, the bittern was in the water.

American bittern

It swam five or six feet before returning to land. I saturated the colors in the photo to below to make it easier to see the bittern. It was too far away to get a clear photo.

American bittern

It stood at the edge of the water for moment, blending (or not) in, before stepping back into the water for a much longer swim. It crossed the pond behind the geese. One goose was annoyed by the bittern and chased it out of the pond. It disappeared into the brush. If it was standing in the brush at the edge of the pond, I couldn’t find it. I think it disappeared into brush. Maybe to a nest or mate?

American bittern

The low, somewhat nasally “oonk-a-loonk” call of the American bittern is one of the signs of spring I listen for each year. It starts after the peent of the American woodcock, and about the same time as the wood frogs and peepers. Interesting birds. I wish I saw them more often.


Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.