Once Bittern...
Hertfordshire Life|November 2019
Once Bittern...
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust conservation manager Tim Hill has been down in the reedbeds in search of one of Hertfordshire’s most elusive birds

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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November 2019