The Jeuns

‘Bittern survey in progress in Somerset’

March 23, 2024 | by The Jeuns

Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) has kicked off a survey of the Eurasian Bittern population in the county. This survey, which started on 14 March, will continue for a month until 14 April. To monitor the species’ numbers during the breeding season, researchers are relying on the distinctive booming call of the male, which can be heard from a distance of up to 5 km away.

According to SWT, the number of bitterns in the Somerset Levels has shown a positive trend over the past decade, with between 40 and 50 males now being regularly counted across the sites. The Avalon Marshes are home to one of the largest populations of this elusive heron in the UK.

Mark Blake, senior reserves manager at SWT, encouraged anyone who hears the sound of the bittern in Somerset to report it online as part of Project Bittern. He emphasized the importance of involving as many people as possible in the survey across the county.

The success story of the bittern in Britain is evident as the species has been thriving and expanding northward in recent years. 2021 marked a record year for the number of booming male bitterns documented in the UK, following years of steady growth. Once extinct in the country in the 1870s due to hunting and habitat destruction, the species made a comeback in the early 20th century. Restoration of wetlands has played a crucial role in doubling their numbers in just a decade.


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