Monday, 24 December 2007

Bittern by the Bird Bog

click to enlarge
Look close and look hard, look for the black markings on the back.

Potteric Carr, just south of sunny Doncaster, it's a big site, getting bigger, and full of birds. The star attraction here are Bittern. On any given day during the winter up to 6 birds are to be expected on the YWT reserve, and the neat part, as the staff was happy to tell me, is the they cut the edges of the otherview very thick reed beds fairly short, so you can see into the reeds a wee bit, which isn't done elsewhere. 'Best place in the country to see Bittern', he said. I could hardly disagree, we had three sightings through the day, of probably three different birds. They do not stay to breed on site yet, although there's no reason why they shouldn't soon begin to. Black-necked Grebe already do breed there (although are absent in winter), so that could be a fantastic spring/summer double in the future.

On Sunday 20th January, Potteric Carr has its annual Bittern Count day, with hides full of volunteers, ready to point of the birds which at the best of times are damn difficult to pick out. If you've never seen Bittern, make sure to be there.

Our best view was when one Bittern flew right-to-left across Piper Marsh, which is apparently its uniform behaviour, as the bird circuits the reeds in a clockwise direction. The flight is far more direct than the languid wafting of Heron, they go much quicker than that. The tip I was given by the locals was look for the gulls to scatter from the water, as if in predator evasion mode, because they see the Bittern coming before we do and are bloody scared of it!


Other notables for the day included Water Rail - with ridiculously close views as they fed right out in the open under the bird table on Willow Marsh. That's a very good spot all round really, with 19 species on or around the feeders. As one might expect on a reclaimed northern industrial site, there were Willow Tits all over the place, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, and Jay, also showed well. There is a pair of the vastly declined Lesser Spotted Woodpecker around Potteric Carr, not to be seen during our visit though (nor since the previous Tuesday), indeed such difficult blighters are they to find that one report a week during the winter is about the going rate - and this is the best time of year to see them!

More videos of the day:

Video 1 - Dim distant Bittern preening, wait for the movement
Video 2 - Water Rail again
Video 3 - Jay

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