Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Bitterns are Booming

 4th May 2017

In 1997 only eleven males Bittern were found in the UK, most of which where in East Anglia and Lancashire. However, thanks to over 20 years of reedbed restoration from industrial peatland, an ideal habitat for Bittern has been created across the Somerset levels. We are proud to say that Somerset is now Britain’s stronghold for this mysterious and elusive wetland bird.

To keep track of the Bittern’s progress we do an annual count across Natural England’s, RSPB’s and our reserves, (Westhay Moor and Catcott), and together with theses organisations we survey the reserves by listening out for the male birds’ boom-like call.  

The annual count grows in popularity every year, as more volunteers want to come along and witness the distinctive sound of the heron-like bird, despite the early morning - a 4.30am start! In order to get the results we need, everyone spreads out to cover different areas of the reserves, gently walking and patiently waiting for the famous booms – a sure sign that a Bittern is close by. Every time the distinctive sound of the male bittern was heard, the location was plotted. All the information from each person was gathered and then used to calculate a territory of males. This survey was repeated twice, once in March and then again in April.

Bittern 2 c Jamie Hall croppedFrom these two counts we now have the results, and it’s great news!

5 boomers on Westhay Moor (Somerset Wildlife Trust)

1 boomer on Westhay Heath +1 on and adjacent land (Somerset Wildlife Trust)

1 boomer on Catcott Great Fen (Somerset Wildlife Trust)

16 boomers on Shapwick Heath (Natural England)

19 boomers on Hamwall +1 on adjacent land ( RSPB)

1 boomer on Grey Lake (RSPB)

45 boomers on the Avalon Marshes

46 recorded in Somerset



Bittern pictures ©JamieHall