Things are looking good for rare bird in Rye area

Bittern RSPB SUS-140205-101744001
Bittern RSPB SUS-140205-101744001

A BIRD that was on the brink of extinction a century ago is making a strong come-back in the Rye area.

Bitterns, related to herons, are secretive birds skilled at concealing themselves.

The only real give-away to their presence can be the ‘booming’ call of the male and so this is used as a measure of how many bitterns are around.

Now for the first time in its history, two male bitterns are calling for mates a the RSPB’s Dungeness reserve on Romney Marsh.

Reserve warden Natalie Holt said, “We had two teams out last week, they were in entirely different parts of the reserve and they each heard a calling bittern close by at precisely the same time - so there has to be two.”

A century ago bitterns had been driven to extinction through hunting for the pot and the drainage of the reed beds for farming. Efforts to bring them back had been slow, with only 11 ‘booming’ males in the UK by 1997. RSPB Dungeness became part of the recovery programme when, in 2007, the creation of reed beds in the former gravel pits commenced to encourage them back. The habitat and associated fish take time to establish and mature, so it was only in 2010 the first confirmed breeding took place. Since then a single bittern has been heard and at least two females have nested each year. The arrival of a second male is great news for the project, bringing the total to 122 in the UK.