ixobrychus (from ixos, reed, and to roar or bellow) exilis (slender, small)
Saturday, July 21, 1990 — 4:10 pm
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina — Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive
This Least Bittern may be the strangest lifer sighting I’ve had to date. I was getting into my car after spending half an hour watching a large mixed flock of waders. I caught a glimpse of a bird in my rear-view mirror as it flew behind my car. It was headed off to my left, toward a large expanse of marsh. I saw that it had its neck crooked heron-like, and my first thought was Green Heron. But immediately something clicked and I realized what those large pale wing patches meant.
I jumped out of the car with my binoculars and caught sight of the bird as it cross the road. It was flying about 15 feet above the ground when first seen, but descended to just above the reeds when it reached the marsh. It continued for at least 50 yards, and I got a good look at its green back and wings. The wing patches stood out clearly. Far out into the marsh, it dove down and disappeared into the reeds.
I had started to wonder if I’d ever see a Least Bittern. For eleven years I’d been birding in its range, and never saw a hint of one. And I almost missed this one. But I didn’t.