BOOM TIME

ORE THAN 200

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your Birding Month -

prove breed­ing, as in­di­vid­ual sin­gle males may sim­ply be pass­ing through a site. In or­der to un­der­stand this enig­matic species a lit­tle bet­ter, in the 1990s, the RSPB led a ma­jor ini­tia­tive into find­ing out ex­actly how many Bit­terns were breed­ing, and their spe­cific needs. Novel sound anal­y­sis tech­niques were used to record the calls of the males and prove how many in­di­vid­u­als were present, and whether the same male was stay­ing for the whole sea­son. In­ten­sive re­search into the suc­cess of the nests re­vealed that the chicks were of­ten starv­ing, be­cause the reedbeds did not sup­port enough fish. Ra­dio track­ing of adults showed that these birds need Bit­terns are mak­ing a dra­matic come­back in the UK, thanks to re­search and habi­tat man­age­ment. It is still very hard to see one this well, though... The BTO runs vol­un­teer sur­veys to mon­i­tor and ex­plain changes in bird pop­u­la­tions. To find out more about the Wa­ter­ways Breed­ing Bird Sur­vey visit a ma­trix of open wa­ter and reeds for for­ag­ing, as they pre­fer to hunt at the wa­ter’s edge. This re­search in­formed a huge pro­gramme of work by the RSPB to cre­ate ap­pro­pri­ate habi­tats in a last-ditch at­tempt to bring breed­ing Bit­terns back from the brink. This work has been a suc­cess; num­bers of boom­ing males have climbed to more than 100. The 2007–11 Bird At­las shows that their breed­ing sites are clus­tered around wet­land landscapes in Kent, East Anglia, Som­er­set and York­shire, in­clud­ing those that owe their pres­ence to sub­stan­tial habi­tat cre­ation schemes. In win­ter, when we are joined by mi­grants from the Nordic and Baltic coun­tries, Bit­terns are much more wide­spread, as they do not need the large ar­eas of reedbed re­quired to sup­port a nest of chicks, and they can be found at much smaller sites, even along river banks. They are vul­ner­a­ble to cold weather, and dur­ing freez­ing con­di­tions they are forced to move in search of open, un­frozen wa­ter, mak­ing them more likely to be seen. Dur­ing the harsh win­ter of 2009/10 there were es­ti­mated to be at least 600 Bit­terns present at nearly 400 UK sites. While the re­cov­ery of breed­ing Bit­terns in the UK over the past 20 years has been a con­ser­va­tion suc­cess story, their reedbed habi­tats re­main un­der con­stant threat from dry­ing out, devel­op­ment and sea level rise. Aware­ness, mon­i­tor­ing, and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of this flag­ship species will be key to the long-term suc­cess of these birds.

Kate Risely is the British Trust for Or­nithol­ogy’s Gar­den Bird­watch Or­gan­iser 6.11 6.23 6.57 6.90 6.92 7.22 7.43 7.57 7.62 7.53 7.53 6.95 6.59 6.28 6.10 6.08 6.20 6.40 6.46 6.66 6.82 6.93 6.99 7.00 6.95 6.85 6.71 6.56 23:02 6.54 14:09 7.33 14:54 7.33 16:22 7.02 18:41 6.12 19:42 5.91 20:54 5.84 22:06 5.96 12:29 6.57 13:08 6.68 13:42 6.76 14:48 6.86 15:22 6.82 16:33 6.56 17:55 6.27 6.421 8:48 6.31 6.36 20:23 5.89 21:51 12:30 13:21 15:39 16:22 17:51 23:11 14:15 15:57 17:12 19:58 21:21 6.13 7.14 7.27 7.23 7.02 6.41 6.20 6.83 6.71 6.41 6.15 6.10 6.24

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