Interesting Press Association story about the state of the UK's Bittern population on the wires today - pix are courtesy of Andy Hay/RSPB/PA Wire.....thought there was more than one boomer at Leighton Moss this year, but it has been a year since I've got up there, so what do I know.
Boom time for Bitterns
Emily Beament, PA environment correspondent
One of Britain's rarest bird, the bittern, has had its best nesting season for at least 130 years, the RSPB and Natural England said today.
A total of 75 "booming" males - counted by their distinctive mating call - were heard by conservationists surveying the English reedbeds where the bittern is found.
Almost seven times as many booming males were heard this year than in 1997, when numbers plummeted to a recent low of 11, and the figure was up 47% on last year.
The bumper year for the threatened bird, which died out in the UK in the 19th century and was pushed to the brink of extinction again in the 1990s, is directly linked to the wet weather, researchers believe.
Rainy weather provided ideal feeding conditions for the females, allowing them to get into breeding condition.
And conservation work to restore, recreate and manage the bittern's freshwater reedbed habitat has enabled a turn-around in the bird's fortunes.
With much of the bittern's nesting places concentrated in East Anglian coastal areas, which are threatened by rising sea levels, there has also been a drive to establish inland wetland sites to provide more secure habitat.
So conservationists welcomed the news the bird has spread its range to 10 English counties this year, including a newly-created site in Somerset.
Dr Pete Brotherton, head of biodiversity for Natural England, said: "This year's figures are a fantastic achievement and show that we can bring species back from the brink of extinction.
"You would probably have to go back at least 130 years to find a better year for this booming bird."
Dr Mark Avery, conservation director of the RSPB, said: "The bittern has suffered an ill-fated history in the UK, having endured extinction once and having been on the verge of extinction again in the late 1990s.
"We weren't prepared to accept a second extinction of the bittern, so we launched a rescue bid to keep the bittern as a British bird."
He said the rescue package had benefited a wide range of other wildlife as well as turning around the fortunes of the UK's bitterns.
The bird, which was once widespread in the UK, still has its stronghold in East Anglia, with two thirds of the booming males recorded in Suffolk and Norfolk, and 10 individuals counted in Cambridgeshire.
But there were also six booming males in Lincolnshire, two each in East Yorkshire, Somerset and Kent, and a lone booming male recorded in Lancashire, Hertfordshire and Cumbria.
Its presence in 10 counties is up from eight last year and four in 1997.
The key reason bitterns, which were once so widespread they were regularly eaten in banquets, saw populations crash in the 19th century was the drainage of its wetland habitat.
The bittern stopped nesting in the UK in 1886, but recolonised the UK in 1911 when it was discovered breeding again in the Norfolk Broads.
Recent lows in the 1990s were driven by further drying out of reedbeds.
Dr Brotherton said that despite the success in boosting numbers, there was more to do, and conservationists were working to halt the loss and fragmentation of wetlands and create more habitat to allow the bittern to spread further.
Wildlife Minister Joan Ruddock said: "It is vitally important that we conserve our rich variety of wildlife such as the bittern and that's why the Government works with conservation groups like the RSPB on these projects."
She added: "This year's wet weather has helped the bittern population which shows the real impact of small changes in our climate.
"Understanding the impact of these changes is key to conserving our wildlife and taking forward effective management of habitats."
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies....