Documentary photo of American Bittern in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
My best finds of the day yesterday morning were two American Bitterns on the riverbank of the Bear River at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, birds I do not normally see in January here in northern Utah. Both the bitterns blended in so well with the similarly colored vegetation on the bank of the river that they were hard for even me to see. When I spotted the first one I wasn’t quite sure it was a bittern so we backed up and I opened the window on the other side of the vehicle and used my camera and long lens to verify the identification of the bird. A hunter with an air boat rumbled past right about that time and before I could get outside to take a decent photo the bittern took off in flight, I swung my lens towards the bird and got some awful documentary shots.
But wow, an American Bittern in January is a pretty good sighting.
Riverbank and hidden American Bittern – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 640, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Several hundred yards west I spotted the second, more well hidden American Bittern. Keep in mind this photo was taken using my 500mm with a 1.4x TC which gives me 700mm of effective focal length but with the crop factor on my D500 it is the equivalent of 1050mm of focal length. The bird looked so much like the vegetation on the riverbank to my naked eye that I almost didn’t see it but again I scoped it through the window just to make sure. I’m so glad I did.
January American Bittern on the bank of the Bear River – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 640, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
To my surprise the second American Bittern moved out into the open where I was able to take high quality images of it on the riverbank. Both of these bitterns may have been taking advantage of the warmth of the sun when I first saw them. Even out sunning itself on the riverbank it wasn’t that easy to see without the aid of my lens & camera.
I checked on eBird.org and there aren’t that many reports of American Bitterns in January, the majority of the sightings are at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge in Juab County, Utah, which is one of my favorite locations in Utah. American Bitterns are migratory and they will hang around if there is open water and because of our warmer than normal winter these bitterns may have stayed on at the refuge.
I was thrilled to spot not just one but two American Bitterns at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, they were truly unexpected and a delight to see and photograph.
Life is good.