Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1650 ab BINNS AQ9I4530 copy

Marsh Magic at Dixon Meadow Preserve

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May 4, 2021 | by Adrian Binns

Build it and they will come.  This rings true at Dixon Meadow Preserve, Montgomery county PA, where 14 acres of lush fields and marshland habitat hosts a great variety of birds year-round. An elevated boardwalk loops through reeds, waterways and native-plant vegetation, providing interesting views all day long.  On April 27, I received word of a Yellow-crowned Night-heron stalking the marsh edges, and arrived late on the warm, sunny afternoon to look for this unusual sighting.

American Bittern

The landscape at Dixon Meadow is impressive, and I stopped often to scan waving field grass, watch swallows hawking insects, and listen to Red-winged Blackbirds whistling boldly. Stepping onto the boardwalk, I saw fellow birders peering intently at the first pool. I followed their gaze to see an American Bittern poised motionless in the reeds, staring into the water. It’s concentration paid-off, when it thrust it’s long, sharp bill into the water and came up with a frog!


Further down the water’s edge, a Sora cautiously stepped into the open to forage in the mud. It darted for cover several times, but stayed out long enough for satisfying views. On the other side of the boardwalk, a Wilson’s Snipe blended perfectly into the surroundings, found only when it moved slightly, showing stripe pattern down the back.

Wilson’s Snipe

A few minutes later, the target was in sight: an adult Yellow-crowned Night-heron hunched along the marsh edges. Unfazed by delighted onlookers, the bird stood motionless, seemingly half asleep. Yellow-crowned Night-herons are more associated with coastal salt marshes, making it an uncommon treat at this inland freshwater marsh.

Migration can be magical in many ways, and I’m delighted to see these amazing birds amid a beautiful sunset experience!

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