There was great excitement recently (February 14th) at reports of the sighting of a bittern at the far end of the Ladies’ Pond. The news spread quickly and many people had good views of this rare and secretive bird as it skulked at the edge of the reeds and at times walked out across the ice. Bitterns are a brownish kind of heron, one of the most threatened species in the UK, with an estimated 75 breeding pairs at present.
Here's a picture kindly sent by the City ecologist. Photo: Adrian Brooker
In 1992 they were down to about a dozen breeding pairs. In winter apparently these birds are augmented by birds from the Continent. So that’s probably where ‘our’ bird is from. They are more easily seen in wintry weather conditions when they venture further our in search of scarce food. They are most likely to be seen flying either early in the morning (when they can be quite active) or about an hour before sunset as they prepare to roost. It will be interesting to see what ‘our’ bird does. It was amazingly obliging this morning! After you left I had a good view of it walking right across the ice from one side of the Pond to the other – very beautiful as the sun was just beginning to come out, lighting its plumage.
Margaret Dickinson adds: Today (February 20th) the bittern could be clearly seen in the bird reserve pond.