Bittern by the love bug

Have your say

LOVE is in the air at last for the lonely bittern at RSPB Old Moor nature reserve near Barnsley.

Only weeks ago he was booming – the distinctive call that sounds like someone blowing over an empty bottle – for a mate.

Now his calls have been answered... and the reed beds are splashing with the sound of tiny bittern feet.

It’s a historic moment at the South Yorkshire nature reserve, as it is the first nesting bittern in the county for more than 100 years.

Bitterns – relatives of the grey heron – were classed as extinct in the UK in the late 19th century.

Many were hunted for the dinner table or lost their habitat through the draining of their homes for farmland.

Even as recently as the 1990s there were thought to be only 11 males left, none of which were in South Yorkshire.

Old Moor site manager Matthew Capper said: “This is an amazing moment for the site.

“We have been working hard to create exactly the right habitat for bitterns to breed and this is a brilliant result.”

Visitors are being asked to be respectful of the new family and watch them only from the marked spectator areas at the reserve.

Bitterns are known to be secretive birds, which move silently through reeds looking for fish, amphibians, and insects to eat.

Their dependence on reedbeds and their very small population make the bittern a Red List species – one of the most threatened in the UK.

It is estimated there are 75 annually breeding males in the UK.