Spot the Bittern
There are a few rare birds that live in and around the Ely pits. If you’re really lucky you might spot a bittern. Sarah Blakeman and Liz Hunter both tell how they saw bitterns in Ely – find their recordings on the SSSI & Wildlife page.
Find the bittern:
Out of approximately 100 UK bitterns (counted in 2012) Ely is thought to have 4 bitterns in the settling ponds.
The bitterns are one of the reasons that Ely pits and meadows have been awarded SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest) They are also protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to “take, injure or kill a bittern or to take, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young, or to disturb the birds at or close to their nest”. Breaking this law can result in fines of up to £5,000 per offence or a prison sentence of 6 months.
Bitterns were more common in the Middle Ages and were served at banquets. Follow this link to see a medieval illustration of a bittern and an explanation of how they thought they made their unusual booming sound.
To hear a booming bittern go to the British Library – Sounds.
Can you find out how a bittern booms?
Try to spot the bittern before it goes walking on the ice!