Saturday proved to be an excellent birding day at the Montlake Fill. I'd heard reports of an American Bittern making regular visits there the past few days, and when Truman and I arrived, two birder friends had just seen it land at the Southwest Pond. We headed right over to search for it.
I hadn't seen a bittern since 2008 -- they are reclusive, solitary critters whose cryptic coloration makes them easy to disappear in their marshy surroundings. Truman got a bit bored as I stood on the bank of the pond, scanning the grass and reeds. Patience was rewarded -- the bird suddenly appeared from behind a tangle of branches, and waded slowly over to the bank where it vanished into the reeds.
Next, I noticed a small flock of Green-winged Teal preening nearby -- another sign that the Wintering-Over Waterfowl are returning to the Fill.
An American Tree Sparrow had also been reported a few days earlier -- they are rare on this side of the Cascades. I did not find it, but I had an enjoyable time perched on my camp stool watching the shrubs that are a favorite spot for sparrows of all kinds. I watched Song Sparrows and Golden-crowned Sparrows and quite a few Lincoln's Sparrows like this one:
They are also Fall/Winter birds here. The sparrows were singing and chirping and hopping in and out, and then suddenly they all disappeared and went silent. I immediately scanned the sky, wondering where the raptor was -- and was rewarded by a Merlin zipping across. After two passes over the fields, it flew off to parts unknown, and the sparrows slowly reappeared.
We moved along to the lakefront, where a Bald Eagle scattered the coot flock. A small group of birders on a field trip pointed out a pair of otters far out in the lake. They were diving, catching fish, and coming up on a log to eat. They were WAY far out so I couldn't get good pics, but I tried anyway.
What a great morning!