Monday, January 11, 2010

A Bittern in Montgomeryshire.

Most of you will never have seen this handsome creature in the flesh. I certainly haven't. It's a Bittern, famed for it's 'boom'. This photograph was taken by Chris Townsend, Chair of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, last week at the Coed-y-Dinas Nature Reserve, near Welshpool. If you are driving West along the A483, by-passing the town, the reserve is on your right just before the last roundabout. There's a picnic area, and a hide if you ever feel like breaking your journey. Ken Clarke visited Montgomeryshire last year, and I persuaded Clive Faulkener of the MWT to show him around. Ken was thoroughly impressed.
The Bittern is a type of heron, about 30 inches long (or high if you prefer), and this is the first reported sighting in Montgomeryshire for 10 years. This is its 'wary' pose, using its striped plumage as camouflage against the reeds. The Bittern is an incredibly secretive bird, which is the main reason why you've never seen it.
The Bittern lives in reed beds at the edge of large ponds, and that pointed beak is for spearing fish, frogs, voles etc.. Because so many reed beds have now been drained, the Bittern has become very rare, there being only a few breeding males left in Britain, mostly in the South-East. The male's main tactic to attract a partner in the spring is it's 'boom'. The distinctive 'Boom of the Bittern' sounds like a foghorn, and is reported to be audible for up to three miles. It's the Brian Blessed of the bird world, but even he doesn't have that degree of 'reach'. Whatever, Chris Townsend was a lucky man, and exceedingly quick with his camera.


Penddu said...

I was enjoying the snow near Cardiff the other day, and stumbled across an Egret - very well camoflauged in the snow - but I was too slow with my camera - will try again this weekend.

Glyn Davies said...

Penddu - Little Egrets are becoming much more common. You will have another chance. They are beautiful birds and nothing like as shy as the Bittern. Someone told me today that in Welsh its known as 'Bwm y gors'.

Anonymous said...

While very rare, having once become extinct in Britain and once nearly so again, the Bittern is slowly recovering, with an estimated 75 breeding males in the UK. (Thanks to planting of new reed beds.) However, at this time of year the numbers are swelled by a few winter visitors from Scandinavia and this one could well be one of those. If so, I bet it wishes it hadn't bothered now in this weather!