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First-ever visit to Heath by bittern

posted 28 Feb 2012, 14:37 by A.D. Libitum

Since hearing the astonishing news that a bittern had been seen on the Heath, I'd been desperate to get back to Hampstead.
 So as soon as I got back from the Peak District I raced down to the Sanctuary Pond hoping to get a brief glimpse of our new friend in the reeds.

From 4pm until 5.30 I stood peering into the reeds with an small group of equally keen and cold enthusiasts towards the now famous 'blue' ball' near to which it had been seen. But with the temperature descending with the sun, and bittern-shaped phantasms ghosting through my binoculars in the failing light, it looked like the brief glimpses of the reed-shrouded bittern I saw at Minsmere would have to sustain me for another year. 

And then it happened, just like it had on the day before. 
At 5.40 pm up out of the reeds it flew in full view of the naked eye, landed on the lower limb of a willow overhanging the pond, and before the beaming faces of the assembled, this exquisitely-marked, long-legged heron began a prehistoric slow-motion clamber up to its roosting perch. I could have cheered! What a view! And still in full view it fluffed up on its perch and settled down for the night. Quite something for our little corner of London to attract a bittern when you consider there are only 100 of these birds in the UK!