Guard set up to protect rare birds on RSPB Ham Wall nature reserve
June 2013. The RSPB has set up a guard on the nest of a pair of rare little bitterns at the wildlife charity's Ham Wall nature reserve, in Somerset.
Only breeding pair in UK
This is the only known UK location of the bird, a member of the heron family. The species first nested in Yorkshire in 1984, but it wasn't until 2010 that they bred again in the extensive reedbeds of the RSPB reserve. Since then breeding has been suspected, but this year birds are known to be nesting.
Steve Hughes is the site manager for the RSPB's Ham Wall nature reserve. He said: "The male has a very distinctive "barking" call and appears to be holding territory, and we've had glimpses of a female."
To protect the birds from disturbance and the unwanted attention of obsessive egg collectors, RSPB staff and volunteers will be watching the site and access to some parts of the reserve has been restricted.
Steve Hughes continued: "Everything is in place to make sure these rare and very special birds are fully protected - we don't want to take any chances."
Little bittern - In decline across Europe
Little bittern are found across the world. In Europe over the past 40 years their populations have been in decline. Although the reasons are not entirely clear 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.