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Page last updated at 06:54 GMT, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 07:54 UK
Rare little bittern breeds at Ham Wall nature reserve

The little bittern
This sighting is only the second confirmed breeding of the little bittern in the UK

Wildlife enthusiasts are celebrating after a rare bird was spotted nesting at the Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset.

It is only the second confirmed breeding of the little bittern in the UK, the first being in Yorkshire in 1984.

The little bittern is a small member of the heron family - they normally nest in wetlands and have found the reedbed at the RSPB's reserve near Glastonbury an ideal location.

Ray Summers, RSPB warden for Ham Wall said; "We are all absolutely delighted.

"Since we took on the land at Ham Wall back in the mid 1990s we've been working hard to recreate a pristine wetland.

"To have a nesting little bittern is a fantastic seal of approval for the work we've done, it really demonstrates the quality of the site for wildlife"

Like many birds that nest in dense reedbeds, little bitterns are shy and elusive creatures.

Ham Wall nature reserve by Roger Fry
Finally, we had the news we'd been waiting for...
Ray Summers, warden at Ham Wall

Mr Summers added: "We first saw the male little bittern back in May.
"Although he kept very much under cover, we could hear him calling and occasionally flying back and forth over the reeds.

"To our surprise, we then started to see a female - we kept our fingers crossed and kept watching the site.

"Then, we started to see the female flying regularly to the same spot in the reeds - a sure sign the bird was taking food to youngsters in the nest.

"We couldn't believe it - finally, we had the news we'd been waiting for with the first sightings of a juvenile."

Little bitterns are found across the world but over the past 40 years, their numbers have been on the decline in Europe.

It is thought that this is linked to loss of habitat, both in the areas they nest, and in Africa where they spend their winter.

Tony Whitehead from the RSPB said: "Having little bittern breed for only the second time in the UK at Ham Wall demonstrates the power of landscape scale nature conservation.

"If you get the conditions right, the birds will turn up."

The RSPB's reserve at Ham Wall is part of an ambitious plan to recreate a vast area of wetlands in the Brue Valley.

Known as the Avalon Marshes, the project is being delivered by a coalition of wildlife organisations including RSPB, Natural England, Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Hawk and Owl Trust.

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