Wildlife advent calendar: Day 5: Bittern
A bird famed in the UK for its booming mating calls, the European bittern is known as a very shy and elusive bird. Their colouration makes them very well camouflaged and so it can be fairly difficult to spot among the dead reed stems. Although they are present in the UK all year round, bitterns are often easier to spot during the winter months and as more of them fly into Britain to escape the more freezing conditions on the continent you have a much greater chance of seeing one.
Some of the best places to see bitterns in the UK is RSPB reserves Minsmere and Leighton Moss. They are very restricted to a habitat of wet reedbeds where they are able to fish in deep water from the shelter of the dense reeds.
Population sizes are low in the UK and so harsh winters often have dramatic effect on numbers. The direct destruction and drainage of reed marshes is also a contributor to their decline.
Image taken from Flickr user Jo Garbutt