Monday, January 10th.
Simon Walker spotted a bittern today from the Kingfisher hide, looking north. He told me " The pictures are not as good as I'd like, but it was perhaps 150 yards away. We watched it on and off for almost half an hour, from 13:00".
What a lucky man! Although there are more bitterns in the UK than usual, they are still really hard to see. I would love to see one myself. I haven't seen one for a a couple of years now.
Twice before I've had starving bitterns in my hands. When they are exhausted they become an almost weightless bunch of feathers with a stiletto for a bill and a bunch of fish hooks for claws. One was at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Arundel and the other was found sitting in a red mini-moke on Praslin Island, right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 1000 miles from land.
The birds wintering here are probably from Poland which is the European HQ for bitterns. Even there they are threatened by land drainage, so they are considered to be a conservation priority across Europe.
Back here in the UK, we used to be quite complacent about our success with bitterns. At RSPB reserves like Minsmere and Leighton Moss there seemed to be quite high densities. However, after making sound recordings of all our booming bitterns and analysing them by making sonographs, scientists discovered that there were far less males than we thought; they just moved around a lot.
Don't miss your opportunity to see a bittern this winter. Paxton Pits is a top spot.
Coming soon! I have just received the 2010 Bird Ringing Report fir Paxton Pits. I'll post it as soon as I can.