Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wilbo Thinks About the Patience it Takes to Find Least Bitterns Hunting Fish in the Pere Marquette Flats.

I paused briefly at Sutton's Landing, a place to put in Kayaks or walk a quarter mile long boardwalk constructed on the edge of the Pere Marquette River. I put car in park, put on an overcoat against the rain, went walkabout over the boards.

The river flows through a wetland of reeds and cattails at Sutton's Landing, a point almost to the Ludington city limit. A sign on the boardwalk claims that the wetlands absorb rain and runoff, preventing the flooding that postpones fishing on the Muskegon or White River. So why is this town nicknamed Floodington? Ludington floods.

Many signs are posted on the boardwalk to educate visitors. One claims that Blue Heron, Bald Eagles and Least Bittern can be seen from the boardwalk. Herons and Eagles I see all the time on Lake Muskegon. The Least Bittern, however, would amaze me. I have heard about the Least Bittern's scarcity from one seasoned naturalist who helps keep the frog census around Lake Muskegon, listening from every possible listening spot during the Spring, making a note every time she heard a leopard sounding off or a bullfrog croak.

She knew of only one spot to see Least Bitterns on the Muskegon River Flats, and she asked if I minded not knowing. She wanted to keep the spot private. So I agreed to just let her keep her secret to herself.

According to her, one doesn't see a Least Bittern first. One hears its song. Then one has to see the bird before the bittern sees you. If the bittern feels she is being watched, she'll strike a pose and blend in with the reeds. Eagles go soaring and will visit roads for tire slaughter. Herons will swoop down from flight and stalk in a shallow for fish if there's not too much commotion. The Least Bittern has to be found without arousing any alarm. A boardwalk makes much noise as feet tromp along its length. That's a tall order for me today, to walk silently and listen patiently.

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