Deep in the reed, something is stirring. Invisible at first, then a large yellow eye blinks. The toes of a bony green foot stretch out and a dagger-like beak snaps. A low ‘grrrrrr’ can just be heard above the swish of the wind-blown reeds.
What sounds like a scene from a science fiction movie is the experience of watching a bittern on a crisp winter morning. Due to their almost perfectly camouflaged brown and black plumage that makes them disappear between the reeds, bitterns are never easy to spot. With some patience and a bit of luck, you can find them skulking in their favoured home, wet reedbeds.
The bittern is a thickset bird from the heron family. One of its most distinctive features is its mating call, also called ‘booming’. It’s a deep foghorn or bull-like call which can be heard from a great distance across the reedbeds. Male bitterns begin to boom as early as late January to establish territories and attract mates.
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