By Cambridge News | Posted: May 23, 2015
By Paul Brackley
A little bittern has drawn birders from far and wide to RSPB Lakenheath Fen.
The rare bird has not been spotted in Suffolk since 1979. It is found elsewhere in Europe, but is a very rare visitor to Britain - with typically only one or a few sightings a year. It is only known to have nested in Britain twice: once at Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset and once in Yorkshire in 1984.
The little bittern - a member of the heron family and, at about the size of a moorhen, considerably smaller than a bittern - was first seen at RSPB Lakenheath Fen on May 16. It was heard making its distinctive and bizarre 'barking' call and seen climbing up some reed stems before making a brief flight.
The search for the little bittern was really a game of cat and dog as it was barking almost non-stop - David White, RSPB communication officer
The sighting prompted many birders to turn up expectantly on May 17, to no avail. But it was back on May 20, when it was heard barking intermittently in a part of the reserve known as New Fen North triangle, between Mere Hide and Joist Fen viewpoint.
David White, communications officer for the RSPB, wrote in his May 21 blog, which is featured in the News each Wednesday: "Well, after listening to it barking for around three hours last night, I am pleased to say that I saw the little bittern last night at around 8.30pm!
"The search for the little bittern was really a game of cat and dog last night as it was barking almost non-stop between 5.30pm and 8.30pm. I based myself on the northern side of the triangle and the bird did sound like it was very close. It was seen on the southern edge of the triangle slightly later but all we saw of it was the reeds shaking and not the bird itself!
"We went round to the southern side of the triangle where there were more pairs of eyes. The bird was seen again by several people as it "flopped" across the channel (this was the description we got!) As the light faded, we eventually saw it in flight east over the triangle at around 8.35pm. Success! It was great to see this special bird which was not only a first for the reserve, but the first record of this species in Suffolk since 1979."