Old Moor – 22 May 2016

171 – Bittern

Yabadabadoo! Today, my 75th visit to Old Moor, was finally ‘Bittern Day!’ At long, long last the elusive Bittern is my ‘bogie bird’ no more!


My very first ever Bittern!

Helen and I had been having our usual Sunday – lie-in before breakfast and then a few bits and pieces of jobs. We didn’t decide to go birding until well after 3pm and by then Old Moor was really our only reasonable option. The weather was alternating between sunny and cloudy, but it was quite a warm day for a stroll round the reserve.

Before we’d even arrived we’d chosen to go only to the Bittern Hide today and spend about an hour there. At reception the lady who checked our membership cards took one look at our long camera lenses and asked, “Have you come for the long haul then?” I immediately knew what she meant: she was asking if we had come to sit-it-out in the Bittern hide, possibly right through till closing time at 8pm, in the hope of seeing a Bittern. I mumbled something to the effect that, perhaps we had. “It’s been seen several times today,” she added encouragingly. That filled me with hope that today might finally be the day.

When we got into the hide at 4.45pm there was only one other person there: a lady who was just preparing to leave. “If I go now it’ll surely appear,” she said with a smile as she departed. The auspices were all favourable! *

Helen and I settled ourselves in the hide and hoped for the best. There weren’t all that many birds around except from some Black Headed Gulls and a rather fine-looking Great Crested Grebe which was fishing quite close to the hide. With a lovely warm sun shining on the bird, it looked glorious as it continuously dived under the water only to reappear a few seconds later some yards further away.

As we continued to watch the grebe it suddenly surfaced with a rather large fish it had caught. Both Helen and I rattled-off some good images of the bird with its prize catch before it disappeared into the reeds, only to reappear a couple of minutes later minus the fish but with a satisfied look on its face (not really, of course, but that’s how I think I would have felt in its place!)

Great Crested Grebe

This Great Crested Grebe won’t be hungry again for a bit!

Every now and then something ‘different’ would fly overhead, temporarily making me excited that perhaps this would be the bird. A Cormorant flew over at one point and ‘had’me for a split-second before I realised what it was.

When the Bittern did come I nearly missed it altogether! Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly became aware of a gull harrying a brownish-looking bird of roughly similar size so I decided to take a few shots of it. I quickly fired-off three frames at the brownish bird before it suddenly dawned on me that it was a Bittern that had appeared out of nowhere, and completely without warning. I was able to take one more frame whilst simultaneously blurting-out to Helen that it was a Bittern that i’d seen, before it was gone as quickly as it had appeared! Poor Helen didn’t have time to react and missed seeing the bird entirely. Whilst being happy for me, I could tell she was a pig-sick at missing-out. If I’m honest it took the edge of it for me too, really.

Not much more to report on today really, the Bittern was the only sighting of any great significance. Poor Helen, better luck next time!

* – One online dictionary I checked defined the word auspice as:  ‘a divination or prognostication, originally from observing birds‘ – How appropriate was that?

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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