Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Waders Filtering Into the Area Now

One cool morning about ten days ago following a night of heavy storms I decided to check some local wetlands for dispersing long-legged waders. Herons and egrets are on the move in mid-summer and I was hoping the overnight storms had grounded a few moving birds. Days during and following unsettled weather are often productive for birders.

I stopped first at an extensive wetland behind Pike’s Nursery off Johnston Road. Immediately I saw a white heron hunkered down in the thick, choking vegetation. The small size and black-tipped bluish bill quickly identified the bird as an immature little blue heron. Not a rare bird necessarily but a species that may not show up every year here either. A loud high pitched keow caught my attention and I soon saw a green heron perched on a dead tree trunk clearly agitated by a pair of juvenile red-shouldered hawks on another dead tree. That little heron even successfully convinced one hawk to switch perches. Green herons are the smallest waders that we regularly see in the area.

I next checked a nice beaver-created wetland off Arrowood Road. Here I found not one but three little blue herons. Like the first they were half hidden by the thick aquatic growth. All three were slowly picking their way along, one slow step at a time. I soon realized they were patiently and successfully foraging for green tree frogs in the plant material. Nearby, an even smaller green heron sat perfectly motionless for over 10 minutes on a log, peering into the water perhaps to catch a minnow or tadpole. That provided a nice study in the contrasting feeding styles of the two species.

On to Walker’s Cove along the Catawba River where four great blue herons, two great egrets, and yet another little blue heron were hanging out. Great egrets, by virtue of their large size and longer legs, prefer to feed by standing relatively still in deeper water and waiting for a careless fish or frog to come close. Great blue herons employ a similar strategy.

So I considered the morning’s endeavor a success. There weren’t any big surprises or rarities but it is nice to find a total of five little blue herons at three separate locations anytime in Mecklenburg County.

Little Blue Heron by Phil Fowler

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fall Migration Underway!

I spent the morning last Saturday checking some wetlands along the Catawba River in search of wading birds and shorebirds. At one stop I flushed a mid-sized shorebird from the shoreline that gave a few high-pitched calls and flew away in a distinctive stiff winged flight. It was a spotted sandpiper, not an uncommon bird at all but a significant find on that day. Though the date was July 16, it signaled the start of fall migration through Mecklenburg County. Spotted sandpipers do not nest here, they are only migrants.

It seems shorebirds are always on the move. It was less than 60 days ago that I saw a couple of spotted sandpipers at a local pond. Those birds were still heading north. Many shorebirds have a very short nesting window of time. Their young hatch already able to run and forage for themselves. Once the chicks reach a certain size and age the adults may go ahead and start moving south. The chicks lag behind until they are strong enough to move south too. Shorebirding aficionados know the earliest migrants to appear are adults. The juveniles come later. 

From now until early October it may be possible to find adults and juveniles of many species if good habitat develops. That is always a big IF. More than any other avian group that passes through our area, shorebirds are affected by weather conditions.

Shorebirds generally require exposed mudflats or muddy shorelines. Last year excessive drought resulted in low water levels and the resultant great habitat produced a shorebird bonanza along the river. We have had a lot of rain recently and water levels are high. Rainfall amounts over the next month will be critical to determine how good the shorebirding will be in the piedmont this year.

The fall migration period lasts much longer than spring. The sense of urgency that migrants have in the spring is absent from the fall journey. The travelers take time to fatten up, moving south only when conditions are conducive to travel. Most July and August days are too hot for this birder to spend in the field. There will be plenty of time to catch the fall migration, but that little spotted sandpiper definitely got me thinking about it. 

Spotted Sandpiper by Lee Weber

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dispersing Herons Coming Into Our Area Now

July happenings for our local bird populations include dispersing herons from areas further south or further east where they breed. Two herons are common breeders in Mecklenburg County; the great blue heron and green heron. Yellow-crowned night-herons also nest here but are rare and very local.

Most often white herons like great egrets, little blue heron immatures, and snowy egrets are noticed but other less common to downright rare species show up. A large dispersing flock of great egrets was seen last weekend at Cowan’s Ford Refuge in Huntersville. 

Check out neighborhood retention ponds, apartment or park lakes, and any other wetlands for these large and conspicuous birds.  If you notice an odd or different wader, try to get a photo and send it to me. It might turn out to be something noteworthy.

Below are some of the most expected summer additions:

The great egret is the most common and conspicuous. almost as large as a great blue heron, note the long yellow bill in combination with long black legs.

Great Egret by Taylor Piephoff
 Little blue herons are much smaller, have light-colored greenish legs and a bluish gray upper bill. Only the juveniles are white.

Little Blue Heron Juvenile by Phil Fowler

The adults are blue and brown.
Adult Little Blue Heron by Lee Weber

Snowy Egrets are smaller still. Note the black bill and yellow feet.
Snowy Egret by Jeff Lewis

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Young Hawks Fledging Now; What Are You Seeing?

Young hawks of several common local species are fledging right now. Even after they fledge many continue to beg for food from the parents; often loud and incessantly in a shrill high-pitched scream.
Many of the young birds, while capable of flight, end up on the ground in residential areas if that is where the nest was. I get lots of photos sent to me.
Often there is confusion as to what species they are. Juvenile plumages of our local hawks vary somewhat from that of the adult plumage. While adults are very attractively marked, the juveniles are mostly brown with more vertical streaking on the chest and belly.

Below are some examples of the adult plumages of three of our most common residential hawks and the corresponding juvenile plumages.

The red-shouldered hawk is the most common and conspicuous residential hawk. The attractive adult is shown below.
Adult Red-shouldered Hawk by Lee Weber
The red-shouldered juvenile is vertically streaked on the pale breast and is an overall brown color on the top side.

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk by John Ennis

The adult Coopers hawk is somewhat similar to the adult red-shouldered  with the rusty breast but has a steel-blue top side.
Adult Cooper's Hawk byLee Weber

Juvenile Cooper's, like the red-shouldered, are vertically streaked on the breast. the streaks are finer and more defined.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawks by Jeff Lewis

The red-tailed hawk adult is easily distinguished by the bright rufous tail, even in flight from below.
Adult Red-tailed Hawk by Phil Fowler.

The juveniles lack the rufous tail, and can be separated from the other two species by the unmarked white upper chest with a variable belly band underneath.
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks by Phil Fowler.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hummingbird Shortage? I Think Not.

I have been getting a lot of questions from concerned backyard birders about a perceived shortage of hummingbirds right now. The concern is that most of the folks have been enjoying good numbers of birds in past years but not this year.

Don't worry, there is no decline or crash in the ruby-throated hummingbird population, either locally or nationally.

I suspect those I am hearing from are remembering when seemingly dozens of birds were fighting over the feeders and providing entertaining aerial and chase sequences. You can expect the same thing in just a few weeks. Remember hummingbirds are territorial and will not tolerate intruders during the nesting season. Feeders may get periodic visits from a pair of birds if it is located in their territory but the constant activity of August and September will have to wait.

By late July nesting is pretty much over and the business of fattening up for the fall journey begins in earnest. Young and mature birds disperse and start to inundate feeders, providing non-stop activity. Nectar and sugar water becomes the major food source for fat gain instead of the protein dominated diet of the previous months.

So be patient and keep the feeders fresh and stocked, I can virtually guarantee it won't be too long before the feeders will be a-buzz with action.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Phil Fowler

Friday, June 10, 2016

One of the Area's Most Unusual Birds Ever

I have written about rarities that are attracted to large inland reservoirs but I never thought I would be writing about this one; a brown booby has appeared at Lookout Shoals Lake on the Catawba County / Iredell County line, specifically at the Sharon Boat Access area. I have seen the species only twice in North Carolina; both times at the coast.

Boobies are a family of mostly tropical, heavy bodied plunge-divers. They are found over the open ocean where they dive head-first for fish in tropical waters or along the warm Gulf Stream. Occasionally an individual of one of the several species will show up on a southeastern beach, jetty, or buoy marker.

The occurrence of this species between Charlotte and Hickory is absolutely astounding This bird has taken up on a favorite perch on a rock outcrop where it has been seen by many birders over the last week and a half. It seems content, and can be seen plunge-diving for fish in the larger portions of the lake.

Why this bird arrived in the North Carolina Piedmont is a mystery. Boobies are known to wander well north of the tropics but rarely inland. Maybe this is just a wandering bird, or perhaps it was influenced by the recent Tropical Storm that came in near Charleston. The true answer will not be known. And it is unknown when this bird will decide to move on, which it inevitably will. for now though, it seems entirely content to stay put.

Regardless, this is one of the rarest birds to ever be found in our area.

Brown Booby at Lookout Shoals by Lori Owenby
Here are details and directions from the Carolinabirds listserve:

To get to the Sharon Boat
access area, take I-40 to exit 141 and go north on Sharon School Rd for 1.4
miles and turn left onto Island Ford Rd. Follow Island Ford Rd for 0.4
miles and turn right onto Old Lion Rd and follow it to the end where the
boat access is. The Booby flew (presumably to feed) toward the Catawba
County side and out of sight. If you look for it from the Catawba County
side, the rock it is favoring is the smaller rock ledge to the left of the
large rock face that is most visible.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Highlights of My Breeding Bird Route Survey

Last Sunday I surveyed a breeding bird route from Camp Stewart Road in eastern Mecklenburg County through Cabarrus County, ending up at the Stanly County line. The North American Breeding Bird Survey is administered by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) and depends on volunteer support each year to gather the needed data. Data can then be analyzed to assess changes in bird populations with respect to habitat change, habitat loss, development, and changes in land use.
The survey consists of computer generated routes chosen at random. Each route is 25 miles in length, with a stop every half mile. Volunteer counters record every species and number of individuals for a period of three minutes at each stop. The same route is run every year, ideally by the same volunteer. The particular route I checked has the majority of stops in rolling farmland and rural state roads. A few stops are at bridges where thick deciduous forest lines the creeks.

Species typical of open country and regenerating clearcuts were then the most prevalent. Killdeer, Eastern kingbirds, indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, Eastern meadowlarks, orchard orioles, yellow-breasted chats, common yellowthroats, chipping sparrows, and field sparrows were well represented. I was particularly glad to find grasshopper sparrows, a declining species, at multiple stops. At the bridges summer tanagers, red-eyed vireos, and great crested flycatchers ruled.

This particular route has been sampled for years, so it is pretty rare to add a species that has never been recorded on it. This year I was able to add four new birds: wild turkey, hairy woodpecker, Acadian flycatcher, and prairie warbler. The turkey is reflective of a boom in that species’ population while the prairie warblers were in regenerating clear cuts. That is an example of how habitat is created for certain species. The hairy woodpecker and Acadian flycatcher likely had been just missed in past years. Remember each stop is only for three minutes. If the bird doesn’t chirp or fly into view it will go missing. And I missed some species that are regularly seen most years too.
Still, I ended up with 62 species for the morning effort.

For more information on the N.A. Breeding Bird Survey go to 

Prairie Warbler by Jeff Lewis
Prairie warblers need regenerating clear cuts in the piedmont for suitable nesting habitat. Long ago this habitat type was provided by periodic fires. Now, human clear-cutting provides it. The birds can only use it for a relatively short period years until the growth becomes too tall and thick. Large power-line cuts where the growth is controlled now gives more permanent habitat to the species.

Wild Turkey by John Ennis
 Turkeys have exploded all over in the past couple of decades. They can be seen well within the city limits of large cities like Charlotte now.

Grasshopper Sparrow by Jim Guyton
Grasshopper sparrow are dependent on old grassy fields, often associated with old farms, for nesting habitat. The habitat is fast disappearing nationwide

Eastern Meadowlark by John Ennis
Eastern meadowlarks are found in the same areas as grasshopper sparrows

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Some Confusing Plumages for Some Common Birds

In my column last week I mentioned my birding group at Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge enjoyed views of a first-year male orchard oriole. I received several inquiries as to how I knew how old the bird was. Many sandpipers have distinctive juvenile plumages that the birds hold through the fall migration. Gulls can take from two to four years to reach maturity and may have a distinctive plumage for each year of their immaturity. Each spring, area birders see some summer tanagers that are in the process of molting into adult male breeding plumage from immature plumage, but those birds are rapidly coming into the adult plumage.

The orchard oriole is somewhat unique among our common breeding birds in that it has a first-year male plumage that is very different from the adult plumage. The young birds arrive in the spring along with mature adult males, sing the same song, and establish territories. But where two year-old males and older have a familiar oriole pattern of black and chestnut the younger birds are lemon yellow with a prominent black bib. It can be extremely confusing to an inexperienced birder. It looks like a completely different species, and though most field guides depict the younger male plumage it is often overlooked when thumbing through identification references. 

Though the younger birds are able to reproduce they have difficulty in finding a mate because females usually will pick an adult male to maximize nesting success.

Another songbird that causes similar confusion is the American redstart. Like the orchard oriole, the one year-old males do not attain the black and orange plumage of adults until they are two years old. These males closely resemble females and will sing the American redstart song during migration and through the breeding season, but also are less unsuccessful at breeding for the same reasons as the orchard oriole. 

For both species, it may be a strategy to enable females to readily identify the younger, inexperienced males in order to pick a male that is better able to select and defend a territory; and help with parenting duties. 

First Year Male Orchard Oriole by Lee Weber

Two + Year Old Male Orchard Oriole by John Ennis

First Year Male-plumaged American Redstart by Jeff Lewis

Two+ Year Old Male American Redstart by John Ennis

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Perfect Cup of Field Sparrows

While scanning the sky for soaring raptors recently at Cowan's Ford Refuge, some nearby agitated chip notes grabbed my attention. It was an adult field sparrow with a beakful of caterpillars, or grasshoppers, or some insect.

From experience I knew I was close to a nest. It took about two minutes to locate it in a waist-high pine sapling in a power line right-of-way. Close examination revealed four nestlings big enough to fill the open cup. Below is the nest.

Field Sparrow Nestlings by Taylor Piephoff

Adult Field Sparrow by Phil Fowler.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Magic Mulberry Trees

Last time I mentioned the attraction that Latta Park's mulberry trees have for migrating thrushes...but thrushes aren't the only group of birds that find the berries irresistible. On a recent walk through that park, cedar waxwings, gray catbirds, and scarlet tanagers were all vying for a favorite perch in most of the trees.

The catbirds and tanagers would fly out and snatch a berry while on the wing and return to the perch to gulp it down. The waxwings were even more greedy; staying put and gulping down every one within reach.

It was quite a show.

Gray Catbird by Jeff Lewis

Cedar Waxwing by John Ennis

Scarlet Tanager by John Ennis.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seeing Spots at Latta Park

Every spring migration stands out for one reason or another. For me, this spring was memorable for the show the spotted thrushes put on at Latta Park. While the warblers were somewhat lackluster (some area birders may disagree) the thrushes showed up not only in numbers but in fine voice as well.

When I say “spotted thrushes” I am referring to the species that sport varying numbers and intensity of spots on the breast. In our area those are the hermit, wood, gray-cheeked, and Swainson’s thrushes; and the veery. All are renowned for their singing abilities. All of those species’ songs have been described as flute-like with some exhibiting a downward spiraling ethereal quality. The wood thrush is at the top of my favorite list as the best singer.

At Latta Park, the numerous mulberry trees and their ripening fruits attract all species of thrushes every spring. Most can be seen in dependable but small numbers each year but this year the trees, creekside brush, and lawn were filled with them; especially the last couple of weeks. Normally there would be a few whispered songs that often would be drowned out by other species’ notes, but for several visits this year the thrush songs were loud and ringing, coming from all areas of the park.
Hermit thrushes are the only species that is with us through the winter, and the wood thrush is the only one that nests in our area. The others are spring and fall migrants that nest in the Canadian Life Zone.

The wood thrush is the most russet on top and has the most boldly spotted of the group. The veery on the other hand has very faint spots, sometimes appearing to lack spots at all. The others, in descending order of spot intensity are the hermit, gray-cheeked, and Swainson’s.

As I said before, the thrushes are among the finest of avian singers. Next to the wood thrush, I rate the veery as the most accomplished songster, followed closely by the hermit and Swainson’s. The gray-cheeked song is thin and wiry; obviously coming from a thrush; but not on a par with the others, in my opinion.    

Wood Thrush by Phil Fowler
The wood thrush, above, is larger and bulkier than the other thrushes on this page. Note the russet upperparts and the heavy black spotting on the breast and sides.

Hermit Thrush by Lee Weber

The hermit thrush is the only spotted thrush that winters here. When seen in migration with other similar thrushes, the bright russet tail that contrasts with the back is evident in most individuals.

Veery by Jeff Lewis

The veery has the most ethereal song of the thrushes mentioned here. Note the reduced and much fainter spotting in comparison to the wood thrush.

Gray-cheeked Thrush by Lee Weber
 The gray-cheeked thrush above and the Swainson's below are very similar. Note the buffy eyering on the Swainson's. The overall color is warmer brown than the colder gray of the gray-cheeked.
Swainson's Thrush by Lee Weber.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Colorful Morning at Cowan's Ford

I spent the morning last Monday at Cowan’s Ford Wildlife Refuge at the end of Neck Road in Huntersville. There is a viewing stand that overlooks two ponds surrounded by wide open fields. There is some edge habitat and isolated trees that supply needed perches for singing males of many, many species. It really is one of the best places in the county to observe some of the more colorful species that inhabit open habitat.

The birds were especially active in the slightly overcast cool weather. Orchard orioles, summer tanagers, indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, and yellow-breasted chats flew back and forth from location to location, chasing each other off the most desirable perches. Once a perch was secured, the temporary victor would sit long enough for me to put him in my spotting scope before he got usurped himself. At one point a brilliant male indigo bunting was chased off by an equally brilliant blue grosbeak, which in turn was replaced by a handsome orchard oriole who gave way to an all-red male summer tanager. The buntings and chats put on the best show, with one chat actually sitting on a wire for several minutes instead of staying hidden in a thicket as is their custom.

Around the ponds red-winged blackbirds called to one another, Eastern kingbirds flitted from treetop to treetop while common yellowthroats and field sparrows sang from lower vegetation. A sedge wren, a very uncommon migrant but somewhat regular at Cowan’s Ford, sang from a blackberry thicket, preferring to keep out of sight.

In the deeper woods behind the platform a wood thrush sang its flute-like song. A brown thrasher, Northern waterthrush, pine warbler, gray catbird, and Northern cardinal all joined in.

On the way out along the entrance I stopped at a power line cut where I could survey a broad expanse of sky. From that one location I was able to count seven species of raptor; a bald eagle chick on a nest; an osprey attending a nest; red-tailed, red-shouldered, and Cooper’s hawks; and both turkey and black vultures.

I highly recommend taking a drive out to this site in the morning or later in the afternoon. Even if you are only a casual birder I think you will be impressed with how much you can see.

Orchard Oriole by John Ennis

Summer Tanager by Phil Fowler

Yellow Breasted Chat by John Ennis

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Cup Full of Field Sparrows

An agitated field sparrow let me know I was too close to her nest recently. Having found many field sparrow nests before, I figured it was in one of a few small pine saplings in a regenerating clear-cut field.

The second sapling I checked held the small cup; barely two feet off the ground and chock full of field sparrow. Take a look at the nest and nestlings below, and a shot of an adult.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bluer Birds than Bluebirds

Eastern bluebirds are everybody's favorite it seems but there are a couple of common species just now arriving that are even more blue. Look for blue grosbeaks and indigo buntings in open country and along many of the county greenways where there is plenty of sunshine.

They may even stop in to check out a well-stocked feeder so keep a lookout.

Blue Grosbeak by Lee Weber
More purplish than truly blue, the blue grosbeak is still a striking bird when seen in full sunlight.

Indigo Bumting by Lee Weber
The indigo bunting male seems to actually glow blue in the right sunlight. They are common but small.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Long Day of Spring Birding

I was out of bed at 4:15 am Sunday morning to take part in the Charlotte Spring Bird Count. By 5:30 I was at Renaissance Golf Course and ticking off the first species; American robins in full dawn chorus. It wasn’t long before things got more interesting though.

A pair of barred owls started hootin’ it up at dawn and the neotropics began adding to the chorus. Newly arrived Eastern kingbirds, orchard orioles, indigo buntings, and blue grosbeaks were all accounted for. Birders like to keep a separate list of how many warblers get tallied on spring outings and as usual, the golf course delivered. After three hours 18 species of warblers were tallied including Cape May, worm-eating, hooded, palm, American redstart, ovenbird, Northern parula, pine, black-throated blue, yellow, yellow-rumped, yellow-breasted chat, common yellowthroat, blackpoll, black and white, prairie, Northern waterthrush, and Louisiana waterhrush. That’s a healthy total anytime. Add scarlet and summer tanagers; and a stunning male rose-breasted grosbeak and it made for a great morning.

A marsh wren sang lustily from a small wetland, the fourth straight year that this uncommon migrant has been in that same spot.

Next I checked out an interesting looking field right off Tyvola Road at the new City Park development. I was very surprised to hear the distinctive insect-like buzz of a grasshopper sparrow and I was soon able to find the tiny sparrow perched at the top of a pine sapling. Grasshopper sparrows are tough to find nowadays in Mecklenburg County due to disappearing habitat. I didn’t see a female but I hope he will be successful in attracting one. A pair of killdeer went into a defensive display, obviously guarding and unseen nest somewhere in a gravelly patch of ground.

I checked some small ponds in close-by business parks and was able to locate up to five spotted sandpipers teetering along the shorelines. Those spotteds and the aforementioned killdeer were the only shorebirds seen that day, a little bit disappointing.

All the participants gathered for a tally-up supper at Winghaven at the end of the day. A total of 129 species were reported for the day, a very respectable number. It was a long day for sure but there are birds that must be seen. There’ll be time to rest after migration slows down

Marsh Wren by Jeff Lewis

Hooded warblers love shady damp lowlands. A few breed in Mecklenburg County but they are most numerous along the coast and in the mountains.

Hooded Warbler by Jeff Lewis

Grasshopper sparrows are declining nationwide due to habitat loss as small farms and pastures disappear.

Grasshopper Sparrow by Jim Guyton

Black-throated blue warblers nest in our mountains, but are one of the more common migrant warblers that pass thru. the piedmont. 
Black-throated Blue Warbler by John Ennis

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Fearless Mother

Killdeer are notorious for building their nests in areas of high human traffic. This strategy seems to work; killdeer are very common and successful.

This bird pictured below has scraped out her nest in the middle of a community garden where folks go every day. I checked it out last Friday and could see how the little birds see no problem building where they do. This mother bird was fearless, coming right up to within inches of my feet to drive me away.

The flared tail and drooped wings give the impression the bird is injured; an ingenious ploy to lure predators away from the site. After just a few seconds I walked away, being escorted by the parent leading me right out the gate.

Here is a close-up of the four eggs, perfectly camouflaged if they were on a gravel substrate, which they often are. This nest scrape is in a mulch / wood chip mixture.

Here's profile a shot of an adult bird.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Keep an Eye Out for This Handsome Guy

Rose-breasted grosbeaks arrived in full force last Friday April 22. I received multiple reports of the males showing up at sunflower feeders that day. Over the weekend I received more photos and even saw three birds myself at Latta Park yesterday.

Keep the sunflower feeders stocked for a few more weeks. If you do, you may be lucky enough to enjoy one of these striking birds at close range. They are only passing through so the time frame is brief; only to about May 8.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak by Ron Clark

Rose-breasted Grosbeak by Ron Clark

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An Off-Beat Heron Make an Appearance

I checked out a nice extensive wetland across from Carolina Place Mall in Pineville last week in hopes of catching a glimpse of an American bittern that had been reported from that location. It took some diligent scanning and some patience but eventually I was able to enjoy the bird.

Bitterns are large herons that pass through our area during the migrations. unlike the familiar and conspicuous great blue herons and great egrets that occur in our wetlands, American bitterns are more of a challenge to find.They are extremely well camouflaged with brown, cream, and black streaked plumage that hides them perfectly in thick marsh vegetation. they don't stand tall either, preferring to spend their time hunches down and skulking through the tall marsh grasses.

As an added hiding trick, the bitterns will point their bill straight up into the air to look like a marsh reed and will even sway back and forth to mimic vegetation moving in the breeze.

So I am always glad to see one of these off-beat herons whenever I get the chance. in the photos below you can see how they could be difficult to spot.

American Bittern by Phil Fowler

American Bittern by Phil Fowler