When the yellow bittern turns orange!

Shyampur Monsoon Colors: When Yellow Bittern Turns Orange!

September 11, 2021, 12:15 p.m.

Last modification: September 11, 2021, 12:27 PM

It was easy for us to see the bittern as it hovered over, but not after it came down to land. The bird sank into a shelter as soon as it closed its wings. He wanted to disappear into the vegetation – whether it was grass, rice, lilies, lotus, reed or water hyacinth. And there it turned into iron and didn’t move.

Only the mighty monsoon modifies the Yellow Bittern’s extreme desire to be alone and invisible. For him, rain brings an abundance of food – an army of invertebrates and frogs that thrive best in freshwater. During the monsoon, well-fed bitterns transform into fresh auburn feathers and court each other.

We had the pleasure of seeing paddy standing in the water and a few fields of lilies, weeds and grass between the buildings in Shyampur. These surviving fields of rice, lilies and weeds were the reason a few bitterns hadn’t left their traditional home, a floodplain now clogged with urban ugliness.

Not only did the bitterns stay in Shyampur, but they also continued to nest and raise their chicks there. We saw a black bittern flying above us several times with food in its beak. No bittern would do this unless they had growing chicks in their nest somewhere.

Yellow bittern in water hyacinth. Photo: Enam Ul Haque

Yellow bittern in water hyacinth.  Photo: Enam Ul Haque

Yellow bittern in water hyacinth. Photo: Enam Ul Haque

Bitterns prefer to nest in thick tangles of vines or in herbaceous vegetation, especially near water. We were delighted to see a pair of yellow bitterns nesting in the climbing plant called Rangoon Creeper in an artist’s secluded house in Shyampur.

We had the chance to photograph the growing chicks of the Yellow Bittern from afar. The wide-eyed chicks had just left the nest to explore the world beyond their nursery. They were certainly prettier than the scorched flowers of the climbing plant we call Madhurilata.

Usually, Yellow Bittern chicks grow quickly and become independent very quickly. We hoped the prolific parents would breed again after their four chicks fled. Shyampur, Keraniganj and Purbachal are the only places where we frequently see Dhaka’s last bitterns.

Like other floodplains in Dhaka, Shyampur had some jalmahals, beels and other kha lands. These were cleverly occupied, gradually encroached, and shockingly turned into garbage dumps as the march of urbanization proceeded in disorder.

The Shyampur Marshes would be saved as an invaluable habitat for birds and a recreational area for citizens if the administration at the trade union level had the vision and capacity to safeguard and enhance natural resources and heritage.

But we don’t wish anyone to feel bitterness towards anyone or anything in Shyampur. At least for now, Shyampur continues to give us the limitless joy of watching bitterns silently fly above, slyly sit on a water lily, athletically swing from arum stems, and raise chicks as pretty as the flowers of Madhurilata. We do not know of any urban pleasure that deserves to be replaced by this joy.

About Daniel Lange

Daniel Lange

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