Aus Birders, The following report formed one of the news items on the BBC's
main national news and current affairs radio programme this morning (following
the 5.58am "Tweet of the Day", a minute and a half of a bird species song or
call and a brief description of the bird which has been a week-day item for two
years.) It was fairly simple in concept; the Bittern had disappeared from
Britain because of the destruction of reed beds for farming and other land
uses. (This will resonate with Greg Roberts in his current campaign.) For the
last decade or so conservation bodies such as the RSPB and Wildfowl and Wetland
Trust (WWT) and the Wildlife Trusts and government bodies such as the
Environment Agency and Natural England or their Celtic equivalents, have acted
in a coordinated and cooperative way to create new reed beds. With the habitat
regeneration the birds have reappeared. Every year since the winter of 2002/3
we have had wintering Bitterns in Central London at the WWT's , then, newly
created London Wetland Centre. The last Bittern seen in Central London had been
a dead one in Regents park in the 1890s. Elsewhere in the country, where the
reed beds are big enough, they have stayed to "Boom" and breed. Better not to
lose them in the first place.
(I apologise to the Moderators for not being able to find a link - this may
" Bitterns, elusive heron-like birds once extinct in the UK, have had a record
year in England with the highest number of individuals recorded since the
1800s, thanks to support from an EU conservation programme. Government figures
recently showed many threatened species are still declining, but this story
demonstrates that it is possible to bring back species from the brink.
Funding from the European Union's LIFE-Nature programme, which supports
environmental and nature conservation projects, has allowed a partnership of
organisations including the RSPB to successfully create and restore wetland
habitats for bitterns and other wildlife.
The EU has also played a vital part in bringing this species back from the
brink by protecting areas where the birds breed. The bittern was listed on
Annex I of the 1979 EU Birds Directive, which means that the UK Government has
to take special conservation measures to reverse declines and restore the UK
bittern population to a healthy state, or a 'favourable conservation status'.
The main 'special conservation measure' available is designation and
appropriate management of the key breeding and wintering sites as Special
Protection Areas (SPAs). For example, the North Norfolk coast is part of a
network of bittern SPAs in the UK, five for breeding birds and ten for
wintering birds. SPA status means that a site has robust protection from
potentially damaging land-use change.
Male bitterns have a unique way of declaring their territories, pumping air
through their throats to produce a loud "booming" sound. This reverberates
across the marshland for several miles, earning the bittern old country
nicknames like "miredrum". The shy, well-camouflaged birds are extremely
difficult to find so bittern numbers are calculated by the numbers of booming
males heard among the reeds. Each year an army of volunteers, landowners and
nature reserve staff spends many hours tracking down the birds while they are
booming. In 1997, at the start of the EU LIFE bittern project, they found 11
booming males at seven sites. In 2014, there were 140 "boomers" across 61
sites. 14 of these sites are current or former gravel pits, brick pits or open
coal mines, demonstrating the important role restored quarries and similar
sites can play in securing the long term future of bitterns and other wildlife.
RSPB Minsmere was the stronghold for this bird for many years. But with the
effects of climate change such as loss of freshwater coastal wetlands in mind,
conservationists realised that it would be better if a number of suitable
habitats were available in areas that were safe from sea level rise, and spread
across the country, to ensure the bittern's future. A second set of funding
from EU LIFE-Nature from 2002 to 2006 allowed the RSPB and others to create
more than 300 hectares of new reedbed, around the same size area as the City of
London. In addition, 350 hectares of reedbed were restored, and nearly 40 km of
ditches were restored or created across 19 sites. Now if a particular bittern
population is struggling, there will always be birds from other locations to
boost their numbers. This year, the highest number of bitterns were at RSPB Ham
Wall, inland marsh habitat in Somerset, where 20 birds were booming from the
reeds. Somerset now has England's largest bittern population.
Further good news is that action for bitterns has also benefited other reedbed
species such as water voles, great white egrets and rare small dotted footman
moths. Functioning reedbeds also provide free services for people, including
water filtration and flood mitigation.
Martin Harper is the RSPB's Director of Conservation. He said: "Thanks to
protection under European laws and key partners working together, bittern
numbers have been gradually climbing since 2000. Bitterns needed conservation
on a country-wide, landscape scale and without the support of the EU's Birds
Directive, which protects all European wild birds and the habitats of listed
species like the bittern, this would not have been possible. The bittern
success story should give hope that it is possible to recover threatened
species and that it makes sense to protect the laws that protect nature."
RSPB scientist Simon Wotton said: "I've been working with bitterns for 10 years
and it is wonderful to see how they have responded to the habitats we have
restored for them. They're amazing birds to watch so it is incredibly rewarding
to see their numbers growing."
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "The bittern's distinctive
'booming' call is just one way in which it is a truly special bird, and I'm
delighted that future generations will have the chance to hear it. This success
is down to the hard work of the conservation organisations, landowners and
Government agencies who worked together to improve and create new reedbeds for
Bitterns to breed in. This shows it is possible to reverse even serious
declines in threatened species."
Across the country many conservation groups and private landowners have worked
together to bring bitterns back. For example, the National Trust at Wicken Fen,
Natural England at Shapwick Heath, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Potteric
Carr. Other partners include Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Wildlife Trust,
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Sussex
Wildlife Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust.
Simon Clarke, Somerset National Nature Reserves Manager at Natural England
said: 'The Avalon Marshes in Somerset, including Natural England's Shapwick
Heath National Nature Reserve, now supports a thriving population with around
45 booming male bitterns and at least 20 recorded nests, whereas only seven
years ago there were none. This impressive network of reedbeds and marshes has
also supported breeding little bitterns and great white egrets in recent years,
showing just what can be achieved through large scale habitat restoration in a
short space of time."
Information in this message may be confidential and may be legally privileged.
If you have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender
immediately, delete it and do not copy it to anyone else.
We have checked this email and its attachments for viruses. But you should
still check any attachment before opening it.
We may have to make this message and any reply to it public if asked to under
the Freedom of Information Act, Data Protection Act or for litigation. Email
messages and attachments sent to or from any Environment Agency address may
also be accessed by someone other than the sender or recipient, for business
<BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
<BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit: