Birding by Kayak – four heron day!

Least Bittern among the Pickerel Weed in the Bashakill.

Least Bittern among the Pickerel Weed in the Bashakill.

This morning I decided to skip birding on land. I felt I had gotten the majority of birds that were likely at this time and wanted to get out on the water for some good sightings. I had heard the Least Bitterns from shore on a number of occasions this spring, but hadn’t seen one yet. I was hoping a trip to the south end of the Bashakill would provide that opportunity. I headed out the channel from the Main Boat Launch. I immediately began hearing Common Gallinules and saw a few Great Blue Herons. A female Hooded Merganser going into a hole in a dead tree on the first island was nice to see. Hopefully she has a nest in there. As I meandered along the channel toward the southwest end, many birds could be seen and heard. Least and Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Tree and Barn Swallows, Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush and Baltimore Orioles were all present. Both Osprey and Bald Eagles were busy attending their nests. As I reached the half way point to my destination, I heard a Least Bittern along the channel not far away. As I watched, just around a bend, a Least Bittern flew up and then landed about 50 feet from where it took off. I knew exactly where it landed, so I made my way around the bend and spotted the male bird about forty feet in from the edge. It sat in a clump of Pickerel Weed. At first, it was barely visible, but then it moved around and I was able to see it pretty well. It watched me closely, but seemed undisturbed. It began calling continually. Within a couple of minutes, it was answered by another Least Bittern only about fifty feet away. The second bird responded with a simple eh eh eh, and then was quiet. The male bird called frequently over the next half hour, but the female(?) gave that simple response only every five minutes or so. The male began preening and got a drink of water about half way through the period. He then started calling in earnest all over again. Just before I left, a third Least Bittern called from somewhere in the distance off to the right. As I watched this bird, half a dozen Common Gallinule called all around us. After about 15 minutes the Pied-billed Grebe gave several calls. What a great morning among the marsh birds. As I paddled back toward the Eagles Island a Green Heron flew across the channel in front of me. I headed back to the boat launch and then home. On Haven Road I stopped to check out some birds and look for a possible tern. As I stood there, an American Bittern called several times, giving me all four breeding species of herons in one morning!
From the smallest to the largest, I had all four breeding species of heron at the Bashakill this morning.

From the smallest to the largest, I had all four breeding species of heron at the Bashakill this morning.

Maybe a better shot?

Maybe a better shot?

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10 Responses to Birding by Kayak – four heron day!

  1. Wow John, way to go with the Least Bittern. Super shots.

  2. Mike Yuan says:

    What’s the best spot for chancing on Least Bittern from land? Thanks.

  3. Wilma Amthor says:

    great job John, wish I was there to see them!!


  4. Karen C Miller says:

    Arlene is right … that IS a pretty bird. Great look at the Least Bittern!

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