When you least expect it you might get a chance to see a rather hard to find bird, as we did when Don and I heard of a Least Bittern on our local FL birding listserve. Least Bitterns are widespread breeders throughout the eastern part of the country and into parts of the West, but they are secretive. So I went to photograph this Least Bittern in a park in Ft. Myers, FL. I had seen some beautiful shots of this bird, out in full sun, taken by other photographers. Of course, when I got there, the Least Bittern did not cooperate, photographically speaking. It stayed hidden in its chosen place in the cattails.
I used the Canon SX 50 HS (a superzoom bridge camera) to get these intimate shots of the Least Bittern in its world. You can see its red tongue here.
Here's Don looking down into the cattails to find the elusive Least Bittern.
Can you find it? There it is in the red circle. Great photo op? not. However with a little
zooming in close with the camera and adjusting for the contrasting light, I got some photos. The Least Bittern was hunting for little fish in the true bittern style of wait-quietly-and-strike.
I love the way this Least Bittern so beautifully blends in with its habitat. Its plumage colors and patterns are just like the browns and shadows of the cattails.
Though its body often remained still, you can see the look of anticipation of a tasty fish in its eyes.
Sometimes it would slowly extend its long neck to peer into the water, ready to grab an unsuspecting fish.
Sometimes photography is not about the perfect, front-lit, no obstructing vegetation, catch light in the eye, perfect reflection in the water photo. It is about using your knowledge of your camera's abilities and your own skill to enter the world of a bird and capture that in photographs. I learned a lot about how a Least Bittern goes about its life of getting food on a cool, March day and how it hunts, reacts and rests, all the time oblivious to the photographers on the boardwalk above, hunting for their own photo ops. Yes, the Least Bittern was the least cooperative bird I photographed that day. But at the very least, I gained a new appreciation for this little bird and how it lives, and what the Canon SX 50 can do in capturing its world.