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March saw the first Avalon Marshes wide booming bittern survey of this year. Over 70 staff and volunteers came together from across the Avalon Marshes Partnership conservation organisations and took part in this ‘very’ early morning (5-6am!) survey.   The technique is to position as many people as possible around the landscape to listen for the distinctive sound of the male bitterns which are ‘booming’ and then plot their location. By doing this the number of territorial males can be calculated.

This year the count on Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve was co-ordinated by Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership apprentice Seb Mepham.

In total sixteen confirmed “boomers” we recorded on Shapwick with another potential two birds on site. Twenty-one birds were recorded on Ham Wall, five on Westhay Moor, one on Catcott Lows, one on Westhay Heath (with another two adjacent on Godwin’s land) and one on Greylake (just over the Polden Hills).

That makes a grand total for Somerset’s levels and moors of 46 male birds (plus two unconfirmed), yet another record! To put this into context, there were 36 boomers recorded on the March survey last year and bitterns did not start breeding in the Avalon Marshes until the 21st century

The second 2017 survey is in April.

Bittern photo with thanks to Robert Balch