Thanks to Jen Walker from the RSPB, for the latest update/press release on the fortunes of the Leighton Moss Bitterns.
The pic above is by Jacqui Fereday, and the lady below, who seems to be very excited about holding a small fish is assistant warden, Cat Owen-Pam (no, really).
Over to you Jen...
"As the unprecedented spell of incredibly cold weather continues it's not only our garden birds that are desperate for our help. Staff at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale are particularly worried about how their rarer birds are managing to find food and have resorted to some emergency measures.
The reserve's reedbed and pools are mostly frozen which means that there is virtually no open water for birds to catch fish and this may be making some of the birds quite hungry. In a bid to help the reserve's very rare bitterns, staff have been putting out some fish on the ice to try to supplement their diet.
John Wilson, the reserve's retired warden said "One of the bitterns at Leighton Moss is quite old now, being born almost 10 years ago which makes me worry in these especially cold conditions for it's survival. I remember her being ringed as part of the RSPB's monitoring work when she was about 30 days old - looking quite strange and fluffy then. When she was last seen in the Autumn, it had been an amazing 9 years and 157 days since then, which actually made her the oldest bittern ever recorded by the 'British ringing scheme' and a record breaker for the UK. We hope that she survives this freezing weather and is seen again soon!"
The bittern that was found at the start of 2009 starving in Preston, and was looked after by the RSPCA, has seemed to settle in well at Leighton Moss with reports of sightings for most of last year since its release. It is hoped that this male bittern might stay for good and join the resident male bittern by starting to 'boom' in February to try to attract a mate.
Last year there was good news for bitterns on a national level. Numbers of 'booming' male bitterns were the best ever for at least 120 years. The research carried out throughout the UK by Natural England and the RSPB showed the number of calling male bitterns had increased to a record of at least 82, continuing this formerly extinct British bird's dramatic recovery.
John said "It's been really great news for bitterns this year. However, we must remember that it is still one of the UK's rarest birds and they are particularly vulnerable to long periods of freezing conditions so the population may well suffer over the winter. The RSPB will continue to work hard to help this bird of conservation concern".
Jen Walker, Visitor and Publicity Officer said "It's an ideal time to visit Leighton Moss if you want to try and see a bittern for yourself - perhaps even our record breaking bird or the one that was previously found in Preston. With the water within the reedbed frozen they have been seen right out in the open, crossing the frozen pools to find food or basking out in the sun. Also, there are many more around as some just visit for the winter from the continent. Every Wednesday in January we are running 'Frosty Bittern' guided walks from 11 am - 1 pm so do wrap up and come along!"
RSPB nature reserves are an ideal way to watch winter wildlife as they provide paths with hides and screens that avoid disturbance, which is particularly important in these freezing conditions.
For more information about bitterns see: www.rspb.org.uk/bittern or please call 01524 701601 for information about the 'Frosty Bittern' walks.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...