Small Wonders.

I wish I had taken this. Thanks Wikipedia.

Blue Brick posted a beautiful series of bird photographs.

She described them as elusive. I recalled a chance encounter with a least bittern and was reminded just how elusive our fine, feathered friends can be.


The Least Bittern is native to large marches in the Americas. They are not uncommon in the swamps that define much of the gulf coast, yet I was seventeen before I saw my first one. Now I am nearly thirty and have yet to see another of these small wonders. I am starting to doubt that any known species is more elusive.

The story began when my nine year old neighbor came to my door claiming to have seen a flat bird. I had gained a reputation among the local children for being the closest thing to an animal expert on the block, often being called in to identify road kills and assist in impromptu dissections. (Kids in my neighborhood were weird.)

Not wanting to play “Poke the Maggot Infested Carcass With a Stick” (I was about to eat lunch.) I declined the invitation, only to be assured that the creature was still alive. Thinking it might be injured, I followed her to the back yard of one of her friends.

A folded lawn chair rested against the brick wall of the house. Perched atop this lawn chair was something that must have come from outer space.

Take me to your leader.

Viewed from the side it was a tiny stork, some seven inches tall. Viewed from the front it was a straight line. None of the pictures I have found of this bird seem to properly illustrate  its vanishing act.

As I circled the little bird, its eyes never left mine. Though its beak was pointed skyward. This gave it the appearance of a thin little man with a pointed hat. It would reposition itself so I was always looking at its less visible front, perhaps, a survival strategy. We all had a staring contest with it until we were forced to blink and, just like that, it was gone.

I later found the name of the bird but no picture has ever done it justice.

Descriptions of its behavior though, make me certain that it was a least bittern. Many color morphs exist, much like humans I suppose, and not all of these morphs are known.

This bittern spends most of its life standing perfectly still, snapping up any flying bug that wanders too close. It hides in tall masses of reeds, pretending to be a grass leaf. It hunts and breeds in these reeds, likely never emerging unless the reeds are disturbed.

Despite all I have learned, it’s still hard to believe these birds are not magic. I feel like I have seen a yeti.

18 thoughts on “Small Wonders.

  1. it must have been a wonderful thing to behold! wow! i have read about such insects not birds or beasts.

    • rastelly says:

      Insects? I wonder what those Insects are?

      • i have seen pictures in timelife magazine, in posts about camouflage, mimicry etc. there was a green insect that looked just like a leaf, and was flat like one too.

      • rastelly says:

        I believe I saw one of those in an insect zoo. I only
        recognized it because I had seen several pictures of
        it before – It took my mother awhile to believe me when
        I pointed it out.

    • Sharmishtha says:

      i think the name of that timelife book was mimicry and adaptation. i remember the picture of that green insect only, it really looked like a leaf.

      • rastelly says:

        Mom was shocked when it started moving I remember.
        A man handeled one of them and it went completely
        still. There was no way to tell is wasen’t a leaf.

  2. Your sketches? Wow, this would make a great illustrated story!

    • rastelly says:

      Yes, my sketches. I didden’t think they were
      that great. This whole thing was sort of a rush
      job. I’m glad you think my chicken scratch here
      is something that belongs in a book – I applied
      effects to make them look sort of painted –
      I simply wanted to give an accurate impression
      of the experience, but I’m glad you like them –
      maybe I have something here. Hmmm . . . ‘-‘

      • I always think of illustrated stories as a series of black and white sketches and a few more detailed full-color graphics. Still, you captured the nature of the bird better than the photo and your story is wonderful. Great potential!

      • you are really humble about your sketches, you are a very gifted artist.

      • rastelly says:

        Thanks, I do know I’m capable of some great matieral,
        but these were really not ment to show off – I’m glad you
        like them. I would suggest imitating the style if it interests
        you, they are really not hard. 🙂

  3. rastelly says:

    Thanks, your so nice. 😀

  4. My neighbor found a family of stick bugs in her garden. A whole family of them. She lives right down the street. I have never, ever seen one in the wild, not ever in my whole life. Or have I?
    I wish I had this skill of only being seen when I want to be. Better than pure invisibility, for sure.
    Creatures are so smart.

    • rastelly says:

      I saw a praying mantis once, but only once.
      I’ve heard that some bugs shy away from human
      habitation. Anti-pests it seems, you only encounter
      them in the deep forest – but sometimes they make
      exceptions. I saw a movie about a teen age boy
      no one ever noticed. He used the tendency to
      become really good at shop-lifting. 😉

  5. What a beautiful story.. Love your drawings too rastelly, I cant say I have ever come across a Bittern .. It looks a beautiful if not wierd bird… Thanks for sharing 🙂 ~Sue

    • rastelly says:

      I think there are larger bitterns in the
      uk. People have mentioned their songs
      in books about england. A “Bloop Bloop”
      sound. I don’t think the American ones
      make a noise though, I used to think
      Bitterns were only in the Brittish isles.

  6. rastelly says:

    It is a marsh bird . . .

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