Although American bitterns (Botaurus lentiginosis) are not uncommon, they are difficult to see and photograph. In addition to being very secretive, American bitterns assume a “concealment pose” when threatened. By standing motionless with its neck stretched and bill pointed upward, this streaky brown and buff heron is practically invisible in the tall cattails, sedge and reeds of its habitat. It will even sway with the vegetation. Only when one approaches to closely does a bittern fly off. By then it is too late to raise a camera and obtain a photograph.
This concealment pose is so ingrained in the American bittern that it will assume the pose even when it is out in the open. Leonard and I were walking along the levee next to the pond near the Memorial Parking Area at Ash Creek Wildlife Area when we noticed this American bittern standing in the open. Although we inadvertently flushed several bitterns, this one stood motionless until we were almost upon it, providing a rare opportunity to photograph an American bittern.
On this walk we also heard the call of an American bittern for the first time. They have a booming call that, to us, resembles the call of a courting male sage grouse. It is a very loud, guttural call that carries a long distance.
More detailed information about the American bittern is presented in my earlier post, “American Bittern” on 11-03-2011.