Boom time for bittern

3 January 2017

A rare bird is booming in Lancashire raising hopes of a recovery of one our most enigmatic creatures.

A bittern has been spotted at Mere Sands Wood this week causing the usual rush to the Rufford Hide.

Last month a bittern started making a regular appearance at Brockholes in the Meadow Lake. It hung around is now delighting birders and photographers at the Preston reserve.

In recent years bittern, a type of heron, has bred only at the RSPB’s Leighton Moss reserve, although there were some reports of a juvenile at Wigan Flashes in 2015.

Bitterns have been a feature at Mere Sands Wood over the past few years but they always cause excitement when they are first spotted.

Reserve manager Lindsay Beaton said: “About 20 metres in front of Rufford Hide, you would think this bird would be easy to see.

“But its perfect camouflage of markings and shape mean that it can be very hard to spot, skulking in the reedbed.  Then, once you see it, you think: ‘How could I have missed that?’!”
Bitterns are well camouflaged with a pale brown plumage, streaked with beige and blacks.

They often stand upright and still for long periods. They are hidden in reed beds so larger areas of reed habitat offer a greater possibility that the bird will hang around and possibly breed.
Sometimes in spring they give away their position with a “boom” mating call.

Brockholes General Manager Donalda Williams said: “The bird has arrived at the Meadow Lake every day, at the same time, for a month, so it looks like it will be staying with us all winter.”

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has carried out programmes of reed growing and planting for many years, increasing this vital habitat at the two reserves, Wigan Flashes and Lunt Meadows.

On average the winter population of bitterns in the region is 10 and the Wildlife Trust is keen to hear of any other sightings.

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