Any bird experts around here?

I'm trying to identify a bird that I'm not really sure of. It's a large bird that I've seen numerous times near the South Carolina shore. Looks very similar to a black-crowned night heron, but is brown in color. The ones that I've seen have been slightly smaller than the night heron, but with similar shape and the same orange eyes. This is a large bird - the ones I've seen look about 16 or 18 inches tall - much bigger than a green heron. The brown color looks similar to an American bittern, but the bittern neck I think is longer and skinnier. I've seen photos of young night herons that looked gray, but not brown.
Anyway, if there's anyone out there who can share some words of wisdom, I thank you in advance for your insight.
Photo #2 is the mystery bird.
Thanks
 

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Beautiful shots, Macrunning.
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I especially like the first one.
 
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