Saturday 23 December 2017

Nature Notes

One of the many pleasures of living in Morecambe is that you are very close to Leighton Moss, a wonderful nature reserve. There bitterns have been booming for as long as I remember. By 1997, there were only eleven male bitterns in the UK - in Norfolk and Suffolk, and at Leighton Moss. 

Today had a feature on bitterns this morning, which (purely for interest) I will now share with you via the laser display board. 

It's very good news. Boom, boom!

Justin Webb: The unmistakable sound of the bittern. Bitterns were on the verge of extinction in Britain but they're back and if you care to immerse yourself in a golden reed bed and wait for one to emerge you will almost certainly be lucky in this day and age. But as recently as 1997 there were only 11 males left in the UK. There's been a hugely successful effort to restore their habitats. We've got 150 males and counting at the moment. So for our Nature Notes this week we're joined by Tim Appleton, who is from the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. Good morning to you.
Tim AppletonMorning Justin.
Justin WebbAnd it is about the habitats, isn't it?
Tim AppletonAbsolutely! The habitat was decimated in the Fifties, mainly through drainage, lack of management and also because the sea is slowly reclaiming a lot of the coastal sites where bitterns really first made their big comeback.
Justin WebbYeah,  and there is a conflict, isn't there, between what they need and what sometimes we need? You mention housing. The flooded areas are not ideal areas always for humans to live right next to?
Tim AppletonWell, absolutely. But then again, of course, you've got the opportunity here to use land that isn't suitable for building houses on and, of course, if you've got a lovely reed bed...there's a fantastic reed bed near Peterborough which is surrounded by houses where there are bitterns breeding. So they can live alongside people so long as you've got these very extensive areas of pure reed.
Justin WebbAnd what do they eat?
Tim AppletonThey eat mainly small fish, eels, amphibians. Poor old frogs and toads! They're getting a bit of a hammering, at certain times of year. But no, they love to be very secretive. And that's one of the joys of the bittern, I think. It's actually one of these mythical birds in some ways for bird watchers who suddenly think, "Well, I've got to see a bittern. Where do I go?" and then they sit for ages and then suddenly one will emerge out of the reeds. And they sway in the reeds. They're incredible birds. They're so well camouflaged. When you suddenly get one, well, it's a real wow moment.
Justin WebbAnd we've talked about habitat, and we've talked about food. What about climate? I mean, are they suffering or not suffering?
Tim AppletonNo, I think they're OK. I mean, the population in Europe is pretty big and, as you say, in the UK it is increasing at last. And what is actually happening, because we are creating all these amazing reed beds around the country - a lot of it, of course, funded by European life programmes, which has actually been critical - we've got other sort of birds which actually are...heron families coming back into Britain - like little bitterns, and all sorts of things. So it's a wonderful opportunity for the bittern to live alongside many of its other fellow friends. 
Justin WebbAnd you mention Europe. We are, of course, on the cusp of taking some of our own decisions about farming and the kind of farming we want to see in the future when we leave the EU. This is the kind of thing, isn't it, that if we chose to reward, as it were, farmers providing this kind of habitat then we could? 
Tim AppletonAbsolutely. It is critical that the Wildlife Trust and other NGOs in Britain make sure that DEFRA, Mr. Gove, you know, give all consideration, total consideration, to the future of our wetlands, our forests, our marshlands - everything, not just, of course, the habitat for the wonderful bittern.
Justin WebbTim Appleton from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, thank you very much.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.