Bitterns. Bitterns. Bitterns!
Of course there are other birds, plenty of other birds, but maybe none had ever tantalised me as much as the bittern. Rare, less rare than they were thankfully, localised, certainly never any breeding in my neck of the woods and the species that put the 's' in skulking and the capital 'S' in shy. And through the combined expertise of the RSPB and BBC staff we managed to sneak an eye into one of the least known breeding cycles of any UK species. And for me at least 'they were doing it'. Cannibalism, regurgitation, semi-fledging...what a show!
If I'm very honest I was hoping that what was regurgitated wouldn't be quite so 'modified' by its pre-digestion, I was keen to see exactly what the young were being fed. As it was we saw several fish species, some birds and mammals and invertebrates so it wasn't bad.
Having read all things 'Bitterny' I was however pleasantly surprised by how long they remained at the nest without wandering off permanently into the cloak of reeds and how intimately we were able to watch them transform from ugly fluffy chicks into ugly semi-feathered chicks. And then there was the daily thrill of hearing the booming whilst we were preparing for the show, although by week three the males had actually ceased calling, presumably because all the females were busy with nests or young. That said they will sometimes have a second brood, whether the males boom again . . . I don't know. Whatever, watching these birds was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us and as such was a tremendous thrill and priviledge.
What next year then? Well, if we are after reed bed specialists marsh harriers would certainly be interesting but then so would bearded tits, both stunning species whose rarity has prevented detailed nest watching in the UK. Elsewhere in the area we have a host of superb bird species and plentymore besides - already I can't wait to get back.