As a newbie when it comes to bird photography I had my first bittern encounter last winter.
An overweight, too brownish heron flew out of a reed bed and I realised this must have been one…..
Since this find the bird kept me fascinated….
A bittern is wrapped in riddles and this probably is the reason for its attraction to photographers and twitchers.
Where did he get this mysterious image..?
Partly it must be his rather unusual looks.
With its ridiculously huge claws, its plumb body and vaporous gaze he reminds of a Muppet.
And when he steps on the ice and tries to cross it with its strange dinosaur movements, he could easily opt for a first prize in the Ministry of Silly Walks.
But just when you might start to think he’s so huggable, the bittern shows an entirely different face: the killer gaze. When he’s hunting there’s nothing sweet about him and you consider yourself happy that you aren’t a prey. Or a competitor.
The Botaurus stellaris is known to be a very elusive and rare bird.
And he’s a true Master of Camouflage.
When he smells danger he plays his ‘I’m just a part of an innocent reed bed game.
He even waves with the sheer to be more convincing.
An Oscar-worthy performance, since…he’s seldomly seen.
One question remains: if they’re such hide and seek experts how come they show up massively when it starts to freeze?
I understand that cold and hunger force them to leave their safe hidings but still….where do they come from and where do they go as soon as the thaw enters?
Do they secretly work on their camouflage techniques? Do they return to the mother ship?
And observing this fascinating bird another question rose: How does a bittern catch a fish?
Some people might have seen how the bittern stands motionless next to a blow hole with its nozzle in the water.
He waits…looks and attacks…bingo! How does he do that?!
To try to find some answers I searched the internet to find these theories:
1. A bittern determines the refractive index with its nozzle and everything that moves is food.
2. He uses his eyes to hunt. The nozzle is placed in the water to be as close as possible to the prey and or to avoid scaring the fishes with a plop.
3. Bitterns should -like some other herons-fish with bait. He vomits some remainders to lure his preys.
4. The bittern might lure its prey by using sounds or ultrasound, produced by the nozzle or tongue…
Anyhow….the bittern showed me once again: the more you know, the less you know….
And that’s precisely the attraction of nature photography:a world where miracles still exist.
I’m not a scientist, so unfortunately I can’t answer all questions.
But maybe I can give this gorgeous bird his well deserved Five Minutes of Fame..;)