Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year's Twitch - Retracted


It does happen, when you see a bird, study its field marks, make an ID, and then later on realize it wasn't the bird after all. This is what happened to the Schrenck's Bittern we thought we saw yesterday but after much scrutiny found it to be a female Cinnamon Bittern. It was still a good twitching trip, with all the excitement and adrenalin involved. But the Schrenck's would have to wait another twitching trip...

Below is my original post from the would-be New Year's lifer =)


When I woke up this drizzly Friday morning, little did I know I'd be out twitching a rather rare migrant - a Schrenck's Bittern.

I imagined I'd start my birding this 2013 with the annual Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) but an unexpected text from birder friend Rob made me drop my morning plans and twitch instead.

I was driving my sister to the hospital she was working in when I got Rob's text message saying there was a Schrenck's Bittern at the La Mesa Spillway. I was already in the area and thought about driving directly to the site after dropping off my sister. But my attire prodded to me to drive home first and change -- I was driving in my pajamas! 

Jops was unfortunately stuck at work, but he gave me an enthusiastic "green light" to see the bittern even without him. After a quick shower and change into birding clothes, I picked up my bag and bins, drove to pick up Jun, and we headed to the spillway. 

We saw Rob, Bram, Irene, Tito Bob, and Tita Cynthia in the spillway, observing the bird. They immediately pointed out the bittern to us.

Schrenck's Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus (female)

It was walking slowly in the water, stalking some prey. It has a dark "cap" over its head and heavy streaks running down its buff-colored throat and chest. When the bird turned its back to us, it had a solid greyish brown color, sprinkled with white dots, making it look like a rock in the water.

Another shot of the Schrenck's Bittern hiding in the reeds. Also known as Von Schrenck's Bittern, it is known to
breed in China and Siberia, and spends its wintering months in the Philippines and other parts of SE Asia.

At first, it looked very much like a Yellow Bittern... but it wasn't a Yellow Bittern. The Yellow Bittern has lighter streaks on its throat and belly and is lighter-colored on its back as compared to the Schrenck's Bittern.

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Photo taken in Candaba.

It also looked like a female Cinnamon Bittern... but it wasn't quite a Cinnamon Bittern. The Cinnamon Bittern has an all rufous coloring to its back and wings, and the markings on its wings are rather large compared to the white spots of the Schrenck's Bittern.

After observing the bird and taking in all its field marks, Jun and I said goodbye to our birder friends to go to the trails inside the Ecopark where we saw... an Ashy Ground-Thrush. We didn't see the Scaly Ground Thrush nor the pittas though we did hear the Ashy Ground-Thrushes singing =)

The Schrenck's Bittern was a great New Year's Twitch! (Thank you, Rob!) I hope Jops gets to see it too =)

P.S. Birder Paul Bourdin has a great post about the various Bitterns that he has observed in IRRI. Read about it here.


  1. WOW! Nice pics and description!! Ok .. dark cap, heavy streaks, and crossed fingers and toes!

    1. Thank you! But I just learned this morning that the bird we saw and photographed was NOT a Schrenck's Bittern but a female Cinnamon Bittern... =(

      BUT! Rob said he definitely saw a Schrenck's Bittern in the spillway! Still worth twitching! =)

  2. Hey Maia,

    I really enjoy discovering peoples birding blogs, especially from far flung corners of the globe. Keep up the good work, Maia and I look forward to reading about your next adventure.


    Kieran (

    1. Hi Kieran!

      Thank you for the kind words =) You have an excellent blog!!! =) Looking forward to your next entry as well =)

      Regards from the Philippines,

  3. Aww, Maia! Minus 1 pa! Sayang! Kailan ang next trip? Hindi mo raw kasi kasama si plus 1 kaya minus 1 tuloy. (huh, na-lost din ako dun)

    1. Hahaha! Math kasi e =P Next trip is.... AWC Candaba!