Bittern by the Bird Bug

I’ve got a rare weekend day off and I’m in Otmoor taking in a few hours of sunshine, walking and nature. There’s a large comfortable bird hide and two smaller ones with benches. I’m sitting admiring the beautiful blue water and gorgeous sunlit reeds when I notice two waterbirds flying in close formation from my right.

I suddenly realise they are Bitterns, Botaurus stellaris.

Bitterns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I snatch a few shots as they fly in perfect synchrony. I’ve never seen one before. Now I’ve seen two. There are only 150 breeding males in the UK which is a massive improvement on the 11 we used to have back in 1997. We’ve drained and destroyed so much of their territory, mainly for agriculture, that they were nearly destroyed as a UK breeding species. This looks like a couple to me, which is encouraging.

Bitterns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Then the RSPB Warden appears and asks “Did anyone see the Bitterns that went overhead a little while ago?” He wants me to email him a copy of this picture and is searching for a pencil and paper. I type his address directly into my smartphone instead. Pencil and paper is so last century. “Did anyone see where they came down?” he asks and then he’s gone, just as fast as the Bitterns were.

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