This week’s photo, taken August 24, 2013 in Discovery Park in Seattle, WA, features an ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD during a relaxing moment between feeding sessions.
This past Sunday, I drive an hour south of Seattle to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Along the popular Twin Barns Loop Trail, I encounter 3 other bird-watchers who are debating whether a wading bird they have spotted across the waterway is an American Bittern or a Green Heron. While they are looking at the bird with binoculars, I have the advantage of viewing the mystery bird through my spotting scope. One of the other birders asks me if I know what it is, and I respond: “American Bittern.” No one questions my call, probably because I’m equipped with binoculars, a scope, a tripod, and a camera with a long lens. Since I’m traveling with the whole nine yards, they must think I’m a famous ornithologist and author of several field guides. By the way, that’s precisely the look I am trying to project.
When I return home, I download my images to my computer and examine them carefully. After comparing my photos to illustrations in a few field guides (none of which I wrote), I determine without any doubt that the bird discussed earlier at the refuge is actually a juvenile GREEN HERON.
I reflect on why I originally labeled it a bittern, and I conclude that since I was the only person observing the bird through a high-powered scope, I put pressure on myself to come up with an answer. In other words, my ego got involved, and I simply threw out a guess. In hindsight, the answer I should have given at the time (and it would have been the right answer) is: “I don’t know.”