Fresh AfieldMore posts

Bittern Burst out from Hiding

Apr 09, 2009

American BitternAs I was strolling around our “swamp” yesterday, an American bittern suddenly flew out from its hiding place among the dried cattails. This was the second time in a decade or more that I’ve seen one of these incredible birds.

I call it the “swamp” because my father-in-law designed the shallow series of ponds to attract wetland birds and other wildlife. And it worked!

The American bittern looks the size of a small turkey. Their brown and white streaking of feathers helps them blend in perfectly among the tall, dried grasses in wetlands. They make a really odd gulping sound—totally unlike a typical trilling bird song.

It’s ironic, though, that the other spot along these ponds where a bittern hid before is now bare. It was covered with phragmites, a tall type of grass that can be very invasive. (In fact, when I was in New England last summer, phragmites was taking over a lot of the coastal marshes.)

Even though the bitterns may like the way they can hide in this tall stuff, its dense crowding makes it less than ideal for other plants. We had it burned last winter and now that shoots are coming up, we’ll get it sprayed with an herbicide. So the bitterns will have to content themselves with hiding among the cattails. But I hope maintaining the shallow pools with their wealth of diverse plants, frogs and bugs will continue to give birds like the bittern a place to live. As a landowner, it’s a blessing to be able to attract and support all sorts of wildlife—especially when the main investment is time and a little thought for the plants that are placed or allowed to grow there.

Recent Posts

Blue-winged Teal In Flight

Testing the Waters

Sep 09, 2016

Have you ever been interested in duck hunting, but the idea of weathering the cold has kept you from taking that extra step out into the marsh?  Or perhaps you do duck hunt, but have that friend who tried it once, had leaky waders in the dead of winter, and swore he or she would never go back.  Well, it just so happens ... 

bumblebee

Busy Bees

Sep 05, 2016

Their sight and sound might bring panic at a picnic, but our need for bees is crucial.

Closeup of yellow garden spider on web

The Itsy-Bitsy Garden Spider

Aug 29, 2016

It’s a shame that little Miss Muffett was too frightened to meet the spider that sat down beside her. She would have discovered that spiders are exceptional creatures.