Booming Bitterns

Photo: Oscar Dewhurst

Good news on Bitterns yesterday from the RSPB – 11 males in 1997, over 150 males in 2015 after years of conservation science, habitat management, habitat re-creation and partnership working.  And this was, no-one would deny, led by the RSPB. We await the congratulatory press release from YFTB.

At Ham Wall, there are apparently 17 booming males (no wonder we saw and heard a few on our recent visit) and Somerset holds around 40 males. When I was a lad, there were none. When I was Head of Conservation Science at the RSPB there were none, or maybe an occasional one. Now there are 40+ in Somerset. Wow!

At Lakenheath in Suffolk, which I remember well as a carrot field in 1995, there are now six booming males. Wow! And Common Cranes too! Wow Wow!

At Ouse Fen in Cambridgeshire – which I remember as a gravel working – the first booming male was in 2012 (a year after I left the RSPB) and this year there are 10 booming males. Wow Wow Wow!

Over 59% of the booming males are on sites protected by the EU Birds and Habitat’s Directives. Look at this site to tell the EU that the nature directives are working, please.

Martin Harper, the RSPB Conservation Director, said: “These sites have been vital to the conservation of the bittern and other key species in the UK. However, the European Union is consulting on the future of the Birds and Habitats Directives. And we fear this may lead to a weakening of the directives, with potentially disastrous consequences for many threatened species.”

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5 Replies to “Booming Bitterns”

  1. Ian Botham has asked to be kept informed about what the RSPB does (I think he's hoping for 'dirt') so he should be told about this resounding conservation success. He can be contacted at . I am sure that the more people who tell him about it the happier he will be.

  2. The Natural Capital Committee chaired by Prof Dieter Helm found there was a strong economic case for the creation of 100,000 hectares of new wetland primarily for flood prevention. The cost benefit ratio of the investment ranges between 3:1 and 9:1. Seems good odds to me !
    When you see what sites of less than 1,000 hectares (the Avalon marshes sites put together) can achieve, the NCC's proposal would create a complete revolution for our wetland wildlife - and entirely justified by hard economics. And if you find that hard to believe, remember 2007 (forgotten behind the far less remarkable but more recent Somerset levels floods) when less than one days cloud burst cost the country over £3 billion, left thousands without drinking water - and very nearly cut a large swathe of England's electricity. Another couple of hours of the same sort of rain and it would have been far, far worse - and extreme weather events are increasing.

  3. Well done RSPB,a brilliant success.
    However please take note Mike Clarke,Martin Harper,it is easier now by a long long way to see a Bittern than it is to see a Hen Harrier in England.
    This pains me and it ought to the two people who could stand the best chance of altering this situation.

    1. I've often criticised the RSPB for lacking backbone where Hen Harriers are concerned, including on here but I also often mention in the same sentence that they do some great work. Here's an example. Credit where it's due, well done RSPB. However, I still have to agree with Dennis's comment.


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