The American Bittern, Botarus lentiginosus - after almost 20 years of birding (wait, really!) I have yet to see an American Bittern. It has been a long time resident on my Nemesis Bird list.
A Nemesis Bird is a bird that you should have seen by now. It's one that everyone else that you know has seen, maybe even people who don't bird that much. It's a bird that you looked for countless times but have never seen. I have a loose top ten nemesis bird list. Its inhabitants fluctuate with the seasons and my mood, but the American Bittern has always been on it, if not in one of the top three spots.
2014 was a good year for shortening my nemesis bird list. I saw a Long-eared Owl at Westwood Hills Nature, a Least Bittern at Wood Lake Nature Center, and many American Dippers at Rocky Mountain National Park. Of course the list never really shortens, other birds quickly move onto the list immediately. Regardless, no American Bittern was found.
And really I have no excuse for not seeing one. I work at Westwood Hills Nature Center, which has a large cattail marsh, ideal American Bittern habitat. Other people have seen them at Westwood, but not me. And I think I bird often enough and in enough places where they could be found that by some birding law of averages, I should have seen one by now. I have had a few maybe sightings; quick glances large, brown heron-like birds flying off and disappearing. But never enough of a look to definitively say it was an American Bittern and not an immature Black-crowned Night Heron. So this year American Bittern is officially moving to the top of my nemesis list; finding one is my one resolution for 2015.