Today’s blog post starts with a big thank you to my photography friend Kevin! He sent an email this morning telling me that he discovered an American Bittern yesterday at a pond near his home on the south side of Dubuque. A nice photo was attached as well. This morning there were even two birds but they took off too soon. I was about to close my office for the day this afternoon when my phone rang and Kevin was telling me that the bittern was back again. He didn’t have to ask me twice, I grabbed the camera bag, let the dog jump into the car and took off.

This heron-like wading bird is very secretive and a rare breeder here in Iowa. According to an article from the Iowa Audubon website the American Bittern was fairly common in the 1940’s and the trend of population decline continues. The causes of population declines have been cited as habitat loss, human disturbance, and pesticides and other contaminants. The American Bittern is now considered a high conservation priority in Iowa.

The pond, which is actually a rain water detention pond, is wide open from all sides and a stealthy approach with the camera turned out to be a challenge. Kevin knows the terrain and we managed to get within shooting range without disturbing the bittern. The location was perfect for the bird but not so much for the photographer. Between the broken branches of a fallen tree near the shore the American Bittern can find its food, insects, amphibians, small fish, and mammals. We had to deal with obstruction by branches and grass but that’s the challenge of nature photography and part of the fun mastering it…

The American Bittern was a first sighting for me and I’m very thankful for the call from Kevin today!

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, Induro GIT 404XL tripod, Induro GHB2 gimbal head,  

1: @ 550 mm, 1/800s, f/6.3, ISO 200, camera set to DX format (equivalent to 825 mm focal length)

2: @ 220 mm, 1/800s, f/6.3, ISO 200, camera set to DX format (equivalent to 330 mm focal length)