Bittern Booms at Hertfordshire Nature Reserve Hailed as Conservation Success


Bittern Booms at Hertfordshire Nature Reserve Hailed as Conservation Success

Driven by the near-extinction of the Bittern, a member of the heron family, a large-scale conservation initiative led by the RSPB took place in the early 2000s. This nationwide program focused on restoring reedbeds, their preferred habitat.

Hertfordshire Reedbeds Ring with the Call of the Bittern Once More

Thanks to a successful conservation project, the secretive Bittern has been heard booming – its distinctive mating call – for the first time in recent history at Hertfordshire’s Amwell Nature Reserve. This exciting development comes after years of dedicated efforts to create more reedbed habitat, a crucial requirement for this protected bird.

Locally, the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust partnered with other conservation groups and doubled the area of suitable reedbed habitat in the region between 2004 and 2010. This impressive feat resulted in an additional 24 hectares of potential Bittern homes – roughly the size of 33 football pitches.

Creating a Sanctuary

Amwell Nature Reserve boasts just over two hectares of managed reedbed. With the help of dedicated volunteers, the Trust has secured funding to further improve this habitat. This crucial financial support has allowed for specialized equipment and expertise, leading to enhanced reedbed quality. These undisturbed areas provide ideal hunting grounds for Bitterns, ultimately aiming to attract breeding pairs.

Tim Hill, Conservation Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, says:

“In 1997, the Bittern was recorded at its lowest ebb with just 11 booming males left in the UK. It’s fantastic for all concerned to see the reports of this breakthrough booming and clearly demonstrates that we can reverse the terrible declines we are seeing in our native wildlife, through conservation management and action.”

Booming with Potential

On March 5th, 2024, that vision took a significant leap forward. A male Bittern was recorded “booming” at Amwell for the first time. This booming call, resembling a low-pitched “hooo” blown across a bottle, signifies that the bird finds the habitat and food resources suitable for attracting a mate. While a second Bittern hasn’t been spotted yet responding to the call, conservationists are celebrating this development as a major step.

A Hopeful Future for Hertfordshire

While Bitterns are frequent winter visitors to Amwell and have been spotted at other locations like Rye Meads and Marsworth Reservoir, breeding hasn’t occurred in Hertfordshire for some time. However, with this recent booming, Amwell’s Bittern adds to the positive nationwide trend. According to 2023 RSPB and Natural England surveys, the number of booming Bittern males has increased by a staggering 1973% over the past 25 years. This hopeful sign suggests that Amwell’s booming bird might be the first of many to come.

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