At first glance, it seemed like a dry leaf. A bird had just landed in that area of the bush and had seemingly vanished. Searching for it had become a puzzle. A thorough search through the camera lens and – again – nothing.
I thought to myself “There’s something clearly wrong. Let’s look at that bush again.” And there it was. In fact, the bird was the “dry leaf”!
As I went around the path to get a better view, the Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) stood almost motionless, orienting itself to face me all the time with its beak pointing upwards. Imitating a reed or a branch I guess.
Eventually, something more interesting (perhaps a juicy meal) caught its attention. The bird turned to give a full profile view.
The Yellow Bittern is often confused with the more commonly seen Indian Pond Heron. The most common phrase I hear when people try to confirm the identity is “That Pond Heron looked very different.” A fairly secretive bird, it is sometimes seen flying over inland water bodies with reeds and vegetation. It has a wide distribution range that spans most of India.
However, nowhere have I seen the numbers that I encountered in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Every water body, big and small, has at least one Yellow Bittern lurking around it. They are often flushed out of their hiding places around the banks when one gets too close. At times, I came across Yellow Bitterns sitting out in the open, like this one below.
Or this one showing off its acrobatic skills!