Bitterns are a conservation success story as they were heading for extinction in Britain 25 years ago with just 20 breeding pairs in 1990 and a downward trajectory. New reedbeds were created and old reedbeds were rewetted and the population is now cruising towards 200 breeding pairs. There are strong populations in East Anglia and Somerset, and they are breeding in North, South, East and West Yorkshire. The latter is where I photographed this one. When they are nesting in reedbeds it is usually the females that are seen as they make regular feeding flights over the reeds. Once males have mated they play no further part in incubation or chick rearing.
The scientific name Botaurus stellaris is interesting. Botaurus combines two words for bull; Bos and Taurus. Relating to the deep booming noise made by males which also gives rise to folk names like Bull of the Bog. Stellaris means of the stars, supposedly because of the yellow star-like spangles on the upperparts.