Good British bittern news

This is a video from Turkey about a bittern feeding its chicks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bittern recovery in UK continues as numbers rise again

Once extinct in the UK

September 2011: Britain’s loudest bird, once extinct in the UK, has enjoyed its best year since records began, says a new survey by the RSPB and Natural England.

The bittern – a threatened relative of the more familiar grey heron – is bouncing back, following intensive conservation efforts, which has seen its population rise over the past 15 years from 11 males in 1997 to 104 this year. Bitterns are highly secretive wetland birds and live most of their time within dense stands of reed, making them very difficult to count.

Booming song can be heard kilometres away

However, the males have an amazing ‘beatbox’ ability, where they fill their gullets with air which they release to make a booming ‘song’ which can be heard several kilometers away, enabling scientists to determine the bird’s population.

This summer, researchers found evidence of at least 104 ‘singing’ or ‘booming’ males, principally in East Anglia.

Somerset, Suffolk & Norfolk

However, the bird has also recolonised the Somerset Levels, where surveyors found 25 males, up from 14 in 2010. Following an intensive period of habitat management since the mid 1990s, Somerset is now the second most important county for booming bitterns in England, after Suffolk, which recorded 33 boomers. Norfolk, with 23 booming males, was third.

The bittern has had a rollercoaster history in Britain , as the bird was extinct as a nesting species between 1886 and 1911, when it recolonised the Norfolk Broads.

It would have been unforgiveable to lose this bird again

The bird’s population rose once more until the 1950s when another decline brought the population to a recent low in 1997.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: ‘To lose the bittern once in Britain was regrettable, but to have lost it twice would have been unforgiveable. Concern for the bittern in the 1990s led to an intensive species-recovery programme, with research and habitat improvement and creation playing major roles. Focussed work on bitterns has led to great gains for reedbeds and all the wildlife associated with this priority habitat.

‘This species-led approach to bittern conservation has been vital for the recovery of the bird in England . We look forward to seeing an extension to this approach for other threatened species as a central theme in the England Biodiversity Strategy delivery plan.’

The bittern still faces several threats, including sea level rise, where freshwater sites along the coast could be inundated by saltwater. Additionally, a potential issue is the need for sites suitable for nesting bitterns to receive on-going management.

Dr Pete Brotherton, Natural England’s head of biodiversity said: ‘The bittern’s recovery is a great conservation achievement and shows what can be done when government, conservationists and landowners work together. This is an encouraging sign that we can restore and improve our wetland habitats, which bring vital benefits to both people and wildlife.’

October 2011: In the best year for British bitterns since records began, the species has come home to roost at Natural England’s Stodmarsh National Nature reserve, near Canterbury: here.

Bitterns are back at WWT London Wetland Centre: here.

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is the scheme which monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK. The principal aims of WeBS are to identify population sizes, determine trends in numbers and distribution and to identify important sites for waterbirds: here.

March 2012. Planning permission has been granted to create one of the UK’s largest areas of new wildlife habitat on the Steart Peninsula in Somerset: here.

10 thoughts on “Good British bittern news

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