The bitterns have done it again with another successful nest at Langford Lowfields. They first bred here in 2019 showing that our newly created reedbeds are just what they are looking for. Last year was a bit of a mystery as the reserve was closed for most of the year due to the Covid lockdown so who knows what was going on!
Bitterns went extinct in the UK in the late 1800s and following a recovery in the mid-1900’s, numbers slumped back down to 11 in 1997... Since then however, things have been on the up, with newly created reedbeds, like Langford, playing a big role in their recovery. In 2019, an amazing 198 booming males were recorded across the UK.
The female heading back to the nest site, dragging her enormous feet behind her (photo courtesy of Roger Bennett).
This year we never saw the young but feeding flights started in late May, with the first on 23rd May and they carried on until mid-July. This timescale ties in perfectly with the 50-55 day bittern fledging period. The feeding flights are all carried out by the female (the male is off doing other very important things!?) and she heads out to find food for her chicks on a regular basis, with her hunting expeditions sometimes lasting for a few hours as she searches for tasty treats for her children. These regular flights, with a defined starting point, are the best way of confirming that nesting and hatching have occurred.
We had hoped to see the youngsters prior to fledging, but sadly this did not happen, and we just have to assume that the young fledged and after a couple of days of feeding themselves have now moved off site. The adult birds are notoriously secretive but the young birds seem to be even more shy.
In the spring of 2021 we had 3 male bitterns shouting their unmistakeable booming call to attract females and we are sure that in one case it was successful. We are now looking forward to 2022 to see how many boomers we can get, and perhaps 2 bittern nests.
Call in and see us in spring next year and you may be lucky enough to hear the haunting sound of a booming bittern, for many years a very rare sound in Nottinghamshire.
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