Monday, April 16, 2012

Black Bittern Surprise

I didn't imagine seeing so much Black Bitterns based on a "third-party" birding tip for an owl.

I checked the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines Facebook page and chanced upon such an ecstatic post from Joey (I do not know him personally) sharing his experience seeing his very first wild owl in flight. He also shared seeing herons and what looked to him to be mallards. I also learned a new word from his post, as he described seeing "crepuscular" birds in the site. After looking it up (as one should when encountering an unknown word), I learned that crepuscular is an adjective meaning "active or occurring during twilight." Cool new word for me! He ended his post recommending this site to birdwatchers.

The site he was talking about is the Acacia Estates in Taguig. This is quite a large area being developed into clusters of medium-rise condominiums. Part of this development however faces a fenced "grassland/wetland" area. When Jops needed to bring his Tita to the airport early Sunday morning, we decided to make a birding side-trip to the area on our way back to Quezon City.

We entered the Acacia Estates main gate with a salute to the guard (thanks Tonji for the tip!) and drove slowly along the main road. At first, it was just buildings but the left side soon cleared up to reveal an open area with lots of grass. This was fenced all the way to where it ended in a small creek and then some residential houses. Before we parked the car, we already saw herons flying in to land among the reeds!

We were able to ask a guard about the birds he noticed in the area and he told us about a white "kuwago" (owl) that comes out flying towards night time. We crossed our fingers for this but knew that with the early sunrise (the sun was out and shining before 6AM!), our chances of seeing a Grass Owl were slim.

We got out our bins and scope and started to scan the area. We saw almost a hundred Black-crowned Night-Herons roosting, almost hidden in the grass. LOTS of Clamorous Reed Warblers, clinging on to stalks of grass, calling loudly and chasing each other.

Clamorous Reed Warbler singing its heart out!

We also saw some Common MoorhensWhite-browed CrakesYellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, and Bright-capped Cisticolas.

I was enjoying the warblers' cuteness when we saw a big black bird flying across the field. It was beating its wings more powerfully compared to a Black-crowned Night Heron and when I focused my bins on the bird,  I almost shouted "Black Bittern!" Jops confirmed my ID and when I put down my bins to look at him, he said "Meron pa!" (There's more!") I looked back up at the sky there were 5 of them flying!

We walked down the road to a small creek, and as we approached flushed a Black Bittern hiding in the floating vegetation! TSK! We were able to follow it to where it perched, semi-hidden in the grass. After a few minutes, it came back! I was able to digiscope it with my phone cam (so pardon the quality.) It stayed awhile, stretching its neck to reveal a thick beautiful cream streak plus thinner rufous, white and black streaks making it look almost like a snake!

We were amazed being able to see a Black Bittern up close, exposed and for quite a long period of time! Usually we just see this bird in flight and disappearing into the vegetation. When the bird finally flew into the reeds, we decided to call it a morning and get some breakfast. No Grass Owl yet but the Black Bitterns made my morning =)

Thank you again, Joey H.! =)


  1. Wow, a really great morning there for you, Black Bittern is a very good bird to see!

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was amazing being able to observe the Black Bittern for a long time =)