1 December 2014

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus) is an East Asian species that breeds in eastern Russia and eastern China. 

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

It winters in the Phillippines, SE Asia and Indonesia.  It is strictly a passage migrant here in Hong Kong, with a latest autumn date (Hong Kong Bird Report 2012) of 19th November.

Last Monday (Nov 24th) I set myself and the long lens up at a pond with a small patch of phragmites reeds, with the aim of getting shots of Chinese Penduline Tits. 

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

I had heard that a Schrenck's Bittern had been seen in the area a few days earlier, but was still taken by surprise when one stuck its' head out of the reeds in the early morning sunshine.  After half an hour or so, it strode across the remains of the cress crop in the paddy field and went off to feed in similar weedy habitat nearby.

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

I returned in late afternoon and - at just around sunset - this individual demonstrated what "crepuscular" meant by coming out and poking around the edges of it's chosen pond.  I sat quietly and it came to within ten metres, providing the best views I've ever had of this species.



Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

According to "The Herons Handbook" (Hancock and Kushlan) Croon Helm, 1984, Schrenck's Bittern eats small fish, shrimps, crickets and the larvae of dragonflies and other insects.  Here are three shots with prey items…



Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

I won't attempt to identify the insects...

It seems that Leopold Ivanovich von Schrenck (1826-1894) - Director of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg - originally thought this bittern was a hybrid of the already better-known Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) and Cinnamon Bittern (I.cinnamomeus)

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

It was that pioneer of Chinese Ornithology, Robert Swinhoe, who determined that "Schrenck's" Bittern was a proper species in it's own right.

For anyone who has read this far; - for brief biographies of Schrenck and Swinhoe, and many others, I recommend "Whose Bird ?" (Beolens and Watkins) Helm, 2003.

I promise I'm not being paid to plug books for any particular publisher, I'm just suggesting a couple of possible Christmas reads !


14 comments:

  1. Very nice shots indeed, what a great species. Do they still even occur here in Japan?

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  2. Stu, - according to Mark Brazil in "Birds of East Asia" they've become very rare in Japan...

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  3. You are so lucky! Great images. This species is a rare migrant to Malaysia and I haven't seen one for almost 10 years.

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    1. Thanks, Mun ! I don't see Schrenck's here every year, and never this well before.

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  4. Fantastic pictures, John. Isn't it exciting when such surprises happen? I think I've seen, "Whose Bird?" ...or may even have it, (Actually, I think I do..must check when I get home) as I went through a phase of wanting to know how many species were named. Also, if you have any advice or suggestion for books on "Ducks" I'd like to hear from you. I have been trying to identify many in Japan but there are many ages, at least two sexes, and possible hybrids to scan through and I find general bird books are too limited in their illustrations and information. ..And talking about "The Birds of East Asia" by Mark Brazil, I have the book and only just got the iBook last week. Nice on iPad. I find I use it the most when I want info in Japan.

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    1. Russell, I've got the old "Wildfowl" guide by Madge and Burn (titled "Waterfowl" in the US), but it covers the whole world. "Birds of East Asia" is quite good for ducks, but I still find them tricky, especially when things like female Ferruginous and/or Baer's Pochard are said to be in with flocks of Tufted, usually all bobbing around in lousy light !

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  5. ...yes! I do have the "Whose bird?" book. Must have another browse through it.

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    1. A good book to just dip into… "The Bird Collectors" by Barbara and Richard Mearns, is also very interesting, but more depth, fewer people. Jobling's "Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names" is also fascinating, especially for duffers at Latin like me !

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  6. What a wonderful surprise, and some great photos.

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  7. John, splendid work as usual. Must say I would love to learn from you sometime in bird spotting! I'm one of those blind ones. Haha. Anyway, best wishes for this and the coming New Year!

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    1. Ah Kei, I usually overlook bitterns, - but this one popped out very obligingly. Happy New Year to you, too. Let's get lots of good "shooting" in 2015 !

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