It’s been a heron bonanza at a Lancashire nature reserve, with four varieties of the bird being spotted in recent days.
Birders flocked to Brockholes when news of a bittern broke over the weekend.
But the news came on the back of sightings of little egrets, great white egrets, and the resident grey herons among the lakes and reedbeds. All are members of the wider heron family and seen over the past fortnight.
Herons are recorded regularly at Brockholes and, according to the newly published Bird Atlas for Lancashire and North Merseyside, the region has a population of between 500 and 750 birds – four per cent of the national total.
Little egrets and great white egrets are winter visitors from large groups that inhabit Dutch and French coastal areas, but they are being seen more frequently in Lancashire according to the atlas.
Bittern are rare birds in Lancashire, with sightings confined to nature reserves like Mere Sands Wood and Wigan Flashes and the only breeding site at the RSPB’s Leighton Moss reserve.
Alan Wright, Lancashire Wildlife Trust communications officer, said: “Herons are magnificent birds and not uncommon sights at Brockholes, but there was much excitement when we heard of a bittern on the reserve.
“A lot of work has been done to attract bitterns to Brockholes and to Wigan Flashes, but the reed beds are not well established so we are not expecting breeding birds for some time yet. Herons, bitterns and two types of egret at the reserve prove we are heading in the right direction at Brockholes, and this has caused a lot of excitement among local birders and other visitors.
“The reserve will be a magnet for nature lovers as we head into spring and summer.”
Herons are long-legged birds with beaks especially designed to feed on fish, reptiles, frogs and newts, crustaceans and aquatic insects. They have been known to eat small mammals and eggs.
Grey herons are grey with white chests, egrets are white and easy to spot, while the bittern is a speckled brown and can hide easily in reed beds.
For more information about sightings at Brockholes go to the website at www.brockholes.org or call 01772 872000.