#552 “A bittern taste”

texas birds 017Crex Meadows, Grantsburg WI, June 22, 2013

Let me first state that this American bittern was not seen today in NW Wisconsin, it was seen in January in south Texas.  Unfortunately back then, while I was paying my $3 entrance fee the park ranger said, “hey you guys seen the bittern over there?”  Twenty feet away was this bird, the only one I have seen since starting this nude project and some birds, such as this one, one could just not see naked as per my rules.  Well in this case, without being arrested.

I have only seen about a half dozen or so of these herons in my life, they specialize in stealth, do their own game of freeze frame, sometimes in odd locations, and dont have a true song, I have spent the last week trying to see one, or even hear one nude.  It has been an effort in futility.  They have a very characteristic sound they make and I hear them commonly in June in the morning from the bedroom of my cabin and waking up listening from the back yard at 5am all week has done nothing to advance my bird list.

Here is what they sound like:


My grandfather, Allwin called them “mudpumpers” as they sound like a pump pumping mud, I guess, whatever that sounds like.  2013 has been a strange year and I have not found one of them, heard one of them, or anything despite quite a few hours of searching, looking, listening, hoping……..nothing.

June 22 is the longest day of 2013.  If I was in Sweden, I’d be out in Sweden dancing round the maipole, well, today  I’d be sleeping off a hangover as yesterday, I’d be dancing, singing, and drinking round the pole in their annual pagan rite, wait, Swedes have forgot about the origins of this tradition.  If I was a druid, we’d be naked dancing around a rock circle in the Irish or British Isles or something.  So being in Wisconsin, I drove north of “Freyja,” an appropriately named ghost town south of Crex Meadows named after the sacred Norse goddess worshipped on Midsommars eve, and appropriately in the rain (it is very wet in Sweden). I went out at 5am to ‘dance in the nude’ and look for a bittern, or…well something like that.  Maybe even I could catch sight of a returning Freyja worshipper or something.  I did see suspicious car tracks in the mud, but no evedence of horse sacrifice or bonfires, too bad..

As before, I ended up hearing nothing and I saw less.  About to give up, I drove back towards the pump house, noticed that it had been donated by the loccal Duck’s Unlimited chapter in 1994, and a brown bird flew over the car and landed in the sedge grass on the north side of the road.  I was naked, but in the car so still no luck counting the silly heron.  I stopped, got out,. and immediately I could not see it.  The rain continued and sure it was playing freeze frame thirty feet a way, neck up, it was perfectly camoed and there but unseen.

I danced around at the edge of the road, wet, naked, frustrated and then, in a truly gesture of bad manners, I picked up a rock and threw it in the marsh, Immediately the large stocky American bittern got up and flew northwest, easily identifyable and now a legal bird to count as bird number 552 but I could not get a picture.  The mosquitoes were biting too aggresively for me to either hear the Le Conte’s Sparrow (on list at #551 already) or say a prayer or anything to thank Freyja, who is more of the goddess of storks (fertility) than this silly heron.  I danced back to the car more for my own sake, trying to slap bugs and then satisfied with the new addition drove off back to my grandmother’s for a nap.  Maybe my grandfather named them mudpumpers since I would see one next to the pumphouse in a form of prophesy….hard to know.

Keep the pumper pumping



3 thoughts on “#552 “A bittern taste”

  1. Congrats on the bittern! I’m hoping to see one soon in western MN or eastern ND as we’re taking a quick two-day trip. What are you still looking for?

  2. Excellent bird and excellent story! I was thinking of heading to Crex myself today in pursuit of a black tern and maybe a black billed cuckoo or a sharp tailed grouse but elected to take the more direct route to my next stop.

    I saw no new birds in NJ but hit the din of the 17 year locust. The sound is a constant loud siren. It’s hard to hear birds at all because of the noise. I last heard that when I was 4 years old. 3 x 17 is 51 and I am 55 so I guess that makes sense. I was quite pleased to hear that again.

    • Saw ten black terns, go to pumphouse past it, keep going and then go south, when the road t’s they were all round that flowage

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