Friday, 8 February 2013

Reflecting on a great experience a year ago.....Burt the Bittern

I have nothing to report today, but only because I'm sulking ! I was at work and didnt take my camera. The work yard birds obviously knew this as a large female Sparrowhawk settled in the conifers for 20 minutes this morning and I had a pair of Kestrel displaying overhead in the afternoon. Typical !

However after getting home and adjusting the sizes on my banner photo for this blog, I realised it was almost a year ago that I had one of the best wildlife experiences of my life, and one of my photos taken that day consequently won me a prize in the Countryfile magazine monthly photograph competition.

On the 20th February 2012, it was a cold and bitter day. The London Wetland Centre was my favourite place to go at the time, and at least three Bitterns had been sighted and were showing well. The Headley hide had become well known for seeing Bitterns, so armed with a hot coffee and a couple of cheese rolls, I made myself comfortable in a corner of the hide that gave good views all round. After scanning the reeds to the left of the hide, I spotted a Bittern tucked about a metre back from the waters edge but just 7-8 metres away from the hide. It was stationary and not showing much signs in moving, but armed with coffee and food and wrapped in numerous layers against the cold, I was quite happy to sit back and wait........

and wait.....

and wait.....

and wait.....

four very cold hours later, these are the images I captured when the Bittern decided it was time to move..........

As this Little Grebe went past (completley oblivious to the Bittern behind it), Burt the Bittern started to make its way up the reeds. The camouflage of Burt was incredible. If a Little Grebe couldnt see it even though it had now got nearer to the reedbed edge, then how was anyone else going to see it !

Several times when people came into the hide I was quietly telling them where the Bittern was. I can honestly say about 3/4 of them could not see it.

The few that could see Burt, stayed in the hide and over the next half hour we all watched silently as Burt crept up the reeds and showed so well we almost applauded !

Over four hours of a frozen rear end and two very cramped legs was worth every minute of the photos I got that day.

The photo below was the one that won me the Countryfile monthly competition back in spring of last year. It was a pure 'point and shoot' lucky photo. Everyone in the hide knew it was going to take off at some point, I was just so lucky my camera was on and focused when it did. 
The Headley hide at the London Wetland Centre has since been refurbished, and new windows have been put in. The reedbeds that were on the left hand side were cut back for rejuvenation late last year, and until I get back down there or hear from my Barnes mates, I dont know if they are substantial enough yet to support a Bittern as much as they were a year a go.
But keep following London Birders and the WWT London sightings list, as this February there have already been sightings of SIX Bitterns and two of them were 'booming' !! 

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