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Bitterns breed in Sefton for the first time in centuries - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

A bittern flies over the reedbed at Lunt Meadows by Phil Boardman
A bittern flies over the reedbed at Lunt Meadows by Phil Boardman

A pair of one of the UK’s rarest birds, the Eurasian bittern, has successfully bred at Lunt Meadows nature reserve for the first time in the reserve’s short 10-year history.

This is the first time that bitterns have bred at our Lunt Meadows Flood Storage Reservoir and Nature Reserve in Lunt village in Sefton, and the first time in the local area in approximately 200 years.

Bitterns are a type of heron, with golden brown feathers that are striped with darker browns. Once common in wetlands, bittern numbers plummeted over the centuries, mostly due to the huge loss of the reedbed habitat which they depend on for survival. In 1997, there were only 11 breeding males recorded in the UK, confined to the reedbeds of north Lancashire and Norfolk.

Since then, thanks to targeted conservation efforts to create extensive areas of wetland such as Lunt Meadows, there are an estimated 200 breeding bittern pairs in the UK today.

That these endangered birds have bred at Lunt Meadows is great news for the reserve, which was previously arable farmland. Now, owned by the Environment Agency and managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Lunt Meadows has been transformed into a mosaic of reedbed; wet, marshy and dry grasslands; pools, ponds, hedgerows and scrub. It is renowned locally as a haven for wetland species, especially birds, and is designed to hold excess water from the River Alt during periods of heavy flow or excess rain.

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