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Saturday, 10 July 2010

LITTLE BITTERNS breeding in Somerset


On Tuesday 6 July 2010, I visited Ham Wall RSPB (Somerset) early morning. David Bradnum and Jonathan Lethbridge had very kindly provided me with specific details of where they had seen the male LITTLE BITTERN the day before, and almost immediately, I saw the adult male in flight.

It flew towards me from a line of trees and was in very purposeful flight. It disappeared into a dense patch of reeds and in the early dawn, I could hear what sounded like baby birds being fed. After just over a minute, the male reappeared and flew strongly away. Four minutes later, a much drabber and streaked female LITTLE BITTERN appeared from exactly the same direction as the male and again flew to the same area. Naturally, I assumed that the birds were breeding. Just a few minutes later, the male appeared again, and over the next hour, it returned on numerous occasions, and was not always picked up when arriving.

From the activity, it was clear that breeding had taken place and that the young were being fed in the nest. I contacted RBA, Birdline Southwest, several local observers and the RSPB to inform them of my discovery.

Little Bitterns have successfully bred previously in Britain (at Potteric Carr in South Yorkshire at least) and Ham Wall RSPB and Shapwick Heath NNR are perfect for this species and Eurasian Bittern (at least 12 territories this year) (Lee G R Evans).
The image at the top of the page was taken by Jonathan Lethbridge