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