Back garden Bittern

Steve Blain


When I received a phone call about a ‘Bittern’ in someones back garden I had to go and check, just in case it was!

I received a phone call one afternoon. It was from a Beds Bird Club member

“I’ve got a Bittern in my garden”

Came the voice on the telephone. That was not what I was expecting to hear! To be honest I was slightly sceptical. As all county recorders know not every strange garden bird reported to you is correctly identified. As the gentleman was only in the next village I arranged to pop in for a look myself. Fifteen minutes later I rang the doorbell of the house. The door opened to a cheery

“it’s still there! It’s best seen from our bedroom through…”

What was I walking in to? Plenty of thoughts raced across my mind about where I was being taken. I obviously had an overactive imagination as soon as I reached the top of the stairs I looked through their bedroom window and there was a Bittern!

Canon S90, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x eyepiece.

Their garden backed down to the small river Ivel and there on the opposite bank was a stunning Bittern waiting patiently in the vegetation.  It had been strutting around the back gardens of this sleepy close for around a week.  Mr and Mrs Seal, whose bedroom I was currently standing in, also managed to get it on their garden bird survey form!

I ended up spending a fantastic half hour digiscoping it through their bedroom window (and double-glazing unfortunately) with a cup of tea and biscuits.  Perhaps one of the strangest places a Bittern has ever been photographed from, especially in Bedfordshire.

After watching it for a while it was clear it was very close to the footpath on the other side of the river.  It would freeze every time a dog would come bounding along the bank not more than six feet from it, and every time the dog (and its owner) didn’t have a clue the bird was there.

It was heading towards dusk and I didn’t want to outstay my welcome in the Seals bedroom.  I decided to see if I could find the bird from the footpath on the opposite bank before it got too dark.

Five minutes later I found the Seals house from the footpath and I slowly edged along the path scanning the reeds as I did.  Time was running out and it was getting steadily darker.  Just as I was about to give up I looked down and there it was – just a few feet from my position.  Its head was pointing skyward and those amazing eyes were looking straight at me – fantastic!  I moved back a little and positioned my scope on the path.  It was too close to focus!  I had to slowly move back until I could focus clearly on it.  The detail in the failing light was amazing.  I could just about get the head and neck in the camera.  A few snaps at various ISO settings, making sure I got a sharp image, and I decided to leave it alone for the night.

Canon S90, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20-60x eyepiece, ISO 1000

It was simply a brilliant hour of local birding with an outrageously confiding bird.

One thought on “Back garden Bittern

  1. Ian Fisher

    Great stuff, i had a bittern fly over my garden in Northumberland whilst i was out checking my moth trap at 0200 after i finished work on night last year!


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