American Bittern – 2008

Botaurus lentiginosus – Aderyn Bwn America – Vagrant

On the morning of the 1st December, I was out with Janet Atkinson carrying out a winter TTV for the Atlas, when Robin phoned. Robin got to the point quickly, he had been out yesterday and picked up the remains of a bird, which after cleaning up, he thought was an American Bittern! As the bird was dead, I told Robin we would be with him as soon as we could, but we would finish the survey first.

I had little doubt that Robin would be wrong with his identification.  I had recently spent three weeks sharing a room with him in Madagascar and was aware of his keenness to collect thing and his desire to identify everything! From shells to seeds, from chameleons to lemurs, as well as birds.

St Davids Airfield, long disused (no more of the theory the bird came in by plane) has been left to return to marshy heath and is managed by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.  Robin was looking for waterfowl in a particularly wet area to the north of the runways and came across a bedraggled, partly decomposed bird.  The the legs and long bill were clearly visible, suggesting a bittern-type bird.  Robin, a collector of “things” decided to take bits of the bird home – he wished now of course that he had taken the whole corpse if that had been possible.  But not suspecting a major rarity, “pieces” were taken.  The head including bill (badly decomposed), one leg, and one very black slimy wing.

Back at home, Robin started to clean up the pieces, the leg was easy, the head and bill were cleaned chemically to leave the skull/bill.  The skull/bill fitted a diagram of a bittern species in the literature.  But it was the wing that was the revelation! If it was a Eurasian Bittern, the flight feathers would be strongly barred.  This is what he expected but, on cleaning, it was obvious that they were black, with some feathers tipped with a rusty brown.  The greater coverts being this rusty colour and the primary coverts tipped this colour too.

The wing pattern fitting the illustrations of an American Bittern.

On viewing the bird’s parts I agreed that we had an American Bittern, measurements were taken, including head/bill, leg and the primary length, all of which supported the diagnostic wing pattern.  I posted a photo of the wing on PembsBirds, the county blog-site and amazingly we had 900 hits to this site in the next 36 hours.  How popular the bird would have been if seen alive!

The bird presumably arrived a few weeks earlier in the autumn, perhaps soon after the Blackpoll Warbler, which only one lucky person saw.  This is (BBRC acceptance required) the fourth record of American Bittern for Pembrokeshire.  1972, 1905 both shot, in 1946 one seen on Ramsey Island, which is off the end of the St Davids Peninsula where the airfield resides. 

Richard Dobbins

Pembrokeshire Bird Report 2008

More about the American Bittern in Pembrokeshire

American Bittern – 1994

Botaurus lentiginosus – Aderyn Bwn America – Vagrant

Mathew (1894) records one shot near St David’s in October 1872. Lockley et al. (1949) report a male shot by Dr Mills on 11 December 1905 as having been obtained at Dale, but Lloyd examined the specimen and noted in his diary that it was labelled from Trewellwell. One was seen on Abermawr beach, Ramsey, on 19 October 1946 (Davies and Lockley 1947).

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about the American Bittern in Pembrokeshire

American Bittern – 1894

Botaurus lentiginosis – Aderyn Bwn America

A very rare, accidental straggler from America — only one specimen — that obtained at St. David’s, in October, 1872 (vide Zoologist for 1883, p. 341). This bird was seen and identified by Mr. Cecil Smith, the author of “The Birds of Somerset.” Mr. Smith states that he saw it in the possession of Mr. Greenway, who had shot it. Mr. Greenway had recorded it at the time in Land and Water, with some doubt as to its being the American Bittern. It is singular that only two stragglers from America, this species and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, have occurred on the coasts of Pembrokeshire, while upwards of a dozen have been noticed on the not very distant coasts of Devon and Cornwall. We can only surmise that others may have visited us without having been noticed or recorded.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the American Bittern in Pembrokeshire

American Bittern

Botaurus lentiginosus – Aderyn Bwn America – Vagrant

American Bittern – 2008

Botaurus lentiginosus – Aderyn Bwn America – Vagrant On the morning of the 1st December, I was out with Janet Atkinson carrying out a winter TTV for the Atlas, when Robin phoned. Robin got to the point quickly, he had been out yesterday and picked up the remains of a bird, which after cleaning up, […]

American Bittern – 1994

Botaurus lentiginosus – Aderyn Bwn America – Vagrant Mathew (1894) records one shot near St David’s in October 1872. Lockley et al. (1949) report a male shot by Dr Mills on 11 December 1905 as having been obtained at Dale, but Lloyd examined the specimen and noted in his diary that it was labelled from Trewellwell. One was […]

American Bittern – 1894

Botaurus lentiginosis – Aderyn Bwn America A very rare, accidental straggler from America — only one specimen — that obtained at St. David’s, in October, 1872 (vide Zoologist for 1883, p. 341). This bird was seen and identified by Mr. Cecil Smith, the author of “The Birds of Somerset.” Mr. Smith states that he saw it in the possession of […]