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An American Bittern — Art by Pat Bean

          I woke up this morning,

          Smiled at the rising sun,

          Three little birds,

          Sat on my doorstep,

          Singing sweet songs. – Bob Marley

          One early autumn morning in Maine some years back, I set out for a short walk in Scarborough Marsh, a boggy landscape created thousands of years ago when icebergs advanced and retreated across the land, leaving behind a depression into which the ocean crept.

The marsh was filled with egrets, gulls, doves, chickadees, sparrows, robins, kingfishers, and jays that kept luring me on until my short walk turned into a four-hour hike, making me late getting on the road for the day’s actual destination.

Scarborough Marsh, Mine. — Photo by Pat Bean

A wooden boardwalk took me through the middle of a saltwater marsh, past islands of grass surrounded by patches of water, and a few birch trees, whose gold and red leaves shimmered in the sunlight. In the distance, a belted kingfisher sat on a lone stump in a golden field of waving grasses.

But my best bird sighting of the morning was an American bittern. The tall bird’s streaky brown feathers and reach-to-the sky stance camouflaged it quite neatly among the reeds. It was only when I caught its movement to snatch a tidbit from the waterlogged ground that I saw it.

Bitterns belong to the heron family, and North America has two, the American Bittern and the Least Bittern. Because they are a secretive species with excellent camouflage features, I’m always delighted to find one. Over my lifetime I’ve probably only seen maybe a dozen American and just one Least.

Yellow Bittern — Wikimedia photo

I did, however, see a Yellow Bittern when I visited Guam. That sighting was a special treat because it was New Year’s Day and I wanted my first bird of the year to be something other than a house sparrow, my first bird of the year back then for five years running.

Because birds were scarce on Guam, having been decimated by the arrival of non-native brown tree snakes, it was nearly noon before I saw my first bird that year, a small Yellow Bittern that flew directly in front of me.

Thinking about birds this morning is a distraction from thinking about all the chaos currently going on the world – or of yesterday’s dentist appointment to be followed an upcoming one to extract a tooth and get a partial fitted.

Such is life. Good memories are the silver lining of aging. I’m glad my cup runneth-over with them.

You can read more about my visit to Scarborough Marsh in Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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