At last I have seen a bittern at Otmoor, the RSPB reserve in Oxfordshire.
Bitterns have been booming here since 2013 and were found to be breeding in 2016. I have visited many times since then but had never seen one—until yesterday, 2 November.
It was very quiet there birdwise. I went to the first hide where the water was completely still and producing wonderful reflections. There were a few duck, not doing much.
So I went on to the second hide and found it full of people with binoculars trained on the far bank of the lagoon. There was a bittern around. ‘It’s moving’ they said, but I could see nothing. I was told it was in the reeds below a bush on which was perched a marsh harrier. I could see the harrier all right, but no bittern. Then suddenly it burst out and flew a short way along the bank before disappearing again. I had never seen one fly before; it is a slow and stately flight. For a photo look here and scroll down.
After a time someone saw it, or another bittern, moving again in the reeds. Once more I had difficulty seeing it, but then in flew out right across the lagoon. I stayed there for some time, watching gadwall, mallard, tufted duck and a female teal. I was rewarded with two more bittern sitings.
I walked back to the first hide in time for the starling murmuration. They were coming in overhead as I made my way.
There was quite a gathering of watchers by the first hide.
I arrived just in time to see a sparrowhawk fly out of the reed-bed with a starling in its talons. The starlings kept coming in and dropping into the reeds, then they spread out across the lagoon to find new reed-beds. There was constant movement and noise.
So what had at first seemed a quiet day at Otmoor proved to be an active and exciting one.