Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Harken to a bittern’s boom

Bittern Image © Jamie Hall

Once on the verge of extinction in Britain, springtime reedbeds now resonate to the mournful boom of the bittern advertising his comeback.

Pick a still day, when the sound can carry further 

In the densest of reedbeds, hidden amongst the swaying reeds and feeding on a diet of eels, lives one of Britain’s most secretive birds.  The bittern is extremely well camouflaged amongst the reeds: you can be looking right at one, and not know it’s there until it blinks… When spring arrives, it’s time for the males to advertise their presence, with one of the loudest and most far-reaching calls of any of our birds.  Unlike most birds, he doesn’t use his ‘syrinx’ or voicebox. Instead, the muscles around his oesophagus strengthen and expand, eventually accounting for a phenomenal one fifth of his total body weight and turning his gullet into a great echo chamber.  As he breathes out, the spine-chilling ‘boom’ sounds similar to someone blowing over an empty milk bottle, and can carry for up to three miles.

As recently as 1997 there were just 11 males left in the UK.  From the brink of extinction, the hard work of conservation bodies across the country (with a lot of help from EU legislation and extra funding) has produced heart-warming results, and in 2015 there were a thrilling 150 males booming from their reedbed homes.  Pay a visit to one of these exciting wetlands, and enjoy one of the great conservation success stories of recent years.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below… Even in the right place, you need a little luck to be able to hear a bittern boom.  For a guaranteed ‘boom’, listen to the soundtrack of Westhay Moor on the Somerset Levels at Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Youtube Channel complete with a booming bittern (at 43 seconds into the recording).

Special spots

Cambridgeshire,  The Great Fen

Hertfordshire,  Amwell

Lincolnshire,  Far Ings

Norfolk,  Cley Marshes

Norfolk,  Hickling Broad

Nottinghamshire,  Attenborough

Somerset,  Westhay Moor

Sussex, Rye Harbour

Yorkshire,  Potteric Carr

Bittern © Tim Stenton

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