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Britain’s loudest bird, the bittern, has been heard booming across RSPB Brading Marshes for the first time this spring, and its call is believed to be the first ever record of booming bittern on the Isle of Wight.
The UK bittern population had fallen to just 11 booming males in 1997, but thanks to conservation efforts the population is slowly recovering. Attracting breeding bitterns is widely considered one of the best indicators of successful wetland management.
Expert habitat management at RSPB Brading Marshes reserve has already seen three new wetland species; marsh harrier, little egret and great crested grebe, successfully breed on the Isle of Wight.
Staff and volunteers hope that this booming bittern’s mating call means they too will successfully breed on the reserve in the near future; becoming yet another first for the island.
Keith Ballard, Warden of RSPB Brading Marshes said;
“Hearing a booming bittern on a wetland reserve is like receiving a Michelin star as a restaurant; it’s one of the highest marks of success we could hope for. Bitterns have very selective habitat needs, and to attract them you need a truly thriving ecosystem. The work we have done to manage the reserve for insects, fish, reptiles and mammals, as well as birds, now means we have one of the most UK’s most sensitive species choosing the Isle of Wight as its home.”
Bitterns are highly secretive wetland birds and live most of their time within dense stands of reed, making them very difficult to survey. However, scientists count bitterns by listening for the male’s foghorn-like booming call, usually an indicator that a male is searching for a mate. Staff at the reserve will be monitoring the bird over the coming weeks.
RSPB Brading Marshes is the RSPB's only reserve on the Isle of Wight and stretches from the village of Brading to the sea at Bembridge Harbour. It's a haven for a wide array of wildlife, ranging from buzzards, little egrets, green woodpeckers and marsh harriers to butterflies, hobbies and red squirrels. As an important area for wildlife, it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Natura 2000 site.
Image – Bittern by Andy Hay, RSPB Images
Video - Stock footage - RSPB Images