RSPB and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) staff are celebrating following news that a Eurasian Bittern taken into care and released in Hertfordshire has been sighted in Suffolk.

The female bird was found with minor injuries by a roadside pond near Letchworth, Herts, in mid-September 2016. It was taken into care near Stevenage by staff at Wildlife Welfare and then, after a couple of days, moved to nearby Rye Meads RSPB.

Once the bird was in good enough health, permission was sought from the BTO to fit it with a metal ring sporting a unique number, as very few bitterns are ringed in Britain each year. The bird was ringed by the Rye Meads Ringing Group and then released on the reserve. It was then re-sighted at Rye Meads RSPB five months later on 22 February 2017.

On 7 May 2018, the BTO's Dawn Balmer photographed a bittern with a ring on its left leg from Mere Hide at Lakenheath Fen RSPB, Suffolk, some 50 miles from Rye Meads.

RSPB Lakenheath

By Hugh Venables, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13020812

Staff in the Ringing Unit at the BTO were able to confirm that the bird was the same individual as that at Rye Meads back in 2016-17.

David White, Visitor Experience Officer at Lakenheath Fen RSPB, commented: "Bitterns are not known for flying very far during their lives so it is incredible to think that this bird has come all of this way. If this bird hadn't had been ringed by the Rye Meads Ringing Group, we would have never known where it had come from and how far it had travelled to get here.

Eurasian Bittern is a scarce and secretive member of the heron family that only nests in reedbeds. In 2017, there were 166 ‘booming' males in Britain. This number has increased from a low of just 11 in 1997.

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