A Big British Birding Year: Part IX (one Bittern, twice shy)

Look at this wonderful shot of a Bittern:

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)

This is one of around 600 Bitterns that can be found in the UK during winter. It is a member of the Heron famil… I’m sorry, what’s that? You can’t see a Bittern? Don’t be ridiculous! Look harder!… Oh, alright… it isn’t visible. But, it is there, honest! I had a good view of it through a fellow birder’s scope and was attaching my iPhone via a special contraption to photograph it when it moved deeper into the reeds and then as with Keyser Soze “like that… he’s gone”

So, despite seeing the Bittern, I am not counting it in my year total as I don’t have a photo and … them’s the rules.

Generally, I seem to be going through a difficult patch as my morning at the London Wetland Centre didn’t uncover anything unusual. Luckily, I did still manage to add one bird to my year list. Meet my 62nd bird of the year…

Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)

Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)

Just look at the bruiser! Despite being a long distance from me (hence the quality), it was clearly a GBBG. You are looking at the largest gull in the world and it absolutely dwarfs the lapwing next to it. They are not just big, they are dangerous. The GBBG is, in some environments, an apex predator and acts more like a raptor than a gull. Without talons or a sharp bill, the GBBG normally swallows its prey whole or, when it goes after big prey (rats, puffins, even lambs!) it will often shake things to death and to pieces.

Whilst I hope to have a little more luck on my next trip, I still feel a sense of privilege to have seen a Bittern, heard an early Song Thrush (which also avoided my camera) and photographed the largest gull in the world.


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