The bittern is one of the rarest breeding birds in the UK. It is golden-brown in colour, rather plump, related to the heron and inhabits freshwater reed beds and other wetland environments. They feed on small vertebrates, chiefly fish but also amphibians and small mammals. The male bittern has a loud, booming call that can be heard over a mile away. They are decidedly rare in Warwickshire but several have regularly wintered in the north of the county in recent years.
Remarkably, a bittern was spotted on a rooftop in the centre of Warwick on Christmas Eve, 2009. We’d suffered some very cold, icy weather and it’s likely that birds such as this bittern were having to venture further afield to find fish. This is the only photo I managed to take of this interesting bird before it flew off; not great but the best I could do from a bedroom window with the camera I had to hand. You can see the Albert Street fire station (now demolished) in the background. Also note the frost on the roof. The weather was absolutely freezing!
The sighting even made it into the national papers. This report on Warwickshire’s ‘scarcest visitor’ is from the Kenilworth Weekly News.
There are conservation measures in place to protect these rare birds in our county. The Local Biodiversity Action Plan can be accessed here.