The National Trust for Jersey is delighted with recent observations confirming an unprecedented high number of bitterns at St Ouen’s pond this winter. It is believed that the bad weather conditions in the UK and across Northern Europe has encouraged the birds to spend the last couple of weeks in the milder winter of Jersey. Up to five different birds might have been spending the weekend at the pond, likely using the reedbeds for shelter and feeding.
The bittern is a shy member of the heron family that likes to hide, perfectly camouflaged, in the reedbeds while it hunts for fish and amphibians. During the breeding season the male’s distinctive call can be heard as a loud ‘booming’ across the marshes in the early hours of the morning. This secretive hunter is one of the rarest birds in the UK, with only 75 breeding males found in the last nationwide count.
Whilst there are no records of bitterns breeding in Jersey, the numbers coming from Europe to winter at our reedbeds are increasing, with some birds staying longer each year. The active management of water levels at the pond by the National Trust for Jersey has increased the amount of fish available for bitterns and other birds over the years, and it is hoped that in a not too distant future a pair of young bitterns will decide to stay for the spring and consider breeding by the pond.
Cristina Sellares, from the Lands Team at the The Trust, commented:
We understand that over the weekend a few members of the public had very good views of the bitterns from the hide opposite Big Verns, where the new wetland centre will be built, and we are delighted to see how the wildlife is responding positively to our management work at the pond.