From Roger Elliott, 5-2020

Living just a few blocks from Shollenberger Park in Petaluma for 15 years I’ve become quite familiar with its 2-mile loop starting from the parking lot off S. McDowell Blvd. It has become my “quiet place” to reflect, create imagery and meet friends for a nice walk.

I’ve been taking photos all my life, but since retiring from the Coast Guard in 2011 after 27-years I began creating images in earnest. I continued my education more formally by attending the Academy of Art in San Francisco, completing a BFA in Documentary Photography in 2017, and learning how to showcase the beauty of the land, nature, and people all around me.

During these recent times of sheltering in place I’ve been like everyone else, trying to keep my mind occupied, reading, studying, and trying not to be too complacent. Then I read the order for parks entry was partially lifted in Sonoma County and I knew where I would be spending the next few days!

The evening of May 6th was my 2nd in 3 days trying to catch the big white swans in flight, the American Avocets dipping their long beaks in the soft mud, or the resident swallows building their nests.

American Avocets

I arrived a little later than anticipated and had missed the good light on the right side of the trail from the setting sun. I headed south on the trail to follow the two swans who were having dinner. After seeing a few baby ducks and the ever present red-winged blackbirds I walked farther down and saw what appeared to be a large clump of dried grass among the tall cattails and bulrush. Whatever I was looking at was motionless and appeared to simply be more brown brush.

American Bittern

American Bittern calling

Then I heard that same large clump of dry grass making sounds. Using my monopod and my #GetOlympus camera system I quickly found a creature I have never seen nor heard in all my years. If he is common to Shollenberger, I’ve not been paying attention as much as I thought. I was being introduced to the American Bittern, (Botaurus lentiginosus) and his mating call. Which sounds like gulping a large drink of water or trying to clear his gullet of a previous meal. Here is a short clip of him expressing himself along with images.

I hope he is a regular at Shollenberger and comes to love his surroundings, while inviting more of his kind to stay. I hope you get a good glimpse and hear his call. Look for the large and tall clump of brown grass!



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