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WATCH - Close-up video of bittern catching a fish at Minsmere

PUBLISHED: 17:14 10 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:54 10 November 2018

The bittern seen fishing at Minsmere. Picture: CHARLES CUTHBERT

The bittern seen fishing at Minsmere. Picture: CHARLES CUTHBERT

Charles Cuthbert

Bitterns are known to be elusive birds - but a photographer captured close-up footage of one catching and swallowing a big fish.

Charles Cuthbert, a volunteer wildlife guide at the RSPB Minsmere reserve, said: “Although I have seen bitterns fishing on numerous occasions, this was one of the best moments I have enjoyed watching a bittern close up in more than 50 years.”

He was lucky to arrive at the Island Mere hide at the reserve this week soon after a bittern had been seen, and watched it approach the hide.

Mr Cuthbert said: “It was an ideal opportunity to record its behaviour and to try to capture its fishing technique on video.

“Fortunately for me and other visitors present, the bittern slowly walked into the water-filled ditch and began to look for a fish, suddenly plunging down to grab a large roach and then almost immediately swallowing it. This is shown on my video, the whole event taking just a minute or two!”

Bitterns have been putting on an amazing show at Minsmere this autumn. Picture: CHARLES CUTHBERTBitterns have been putting on an amazing show at Minsmere this autumn. Picture: CHARLES CUTHBERT

Bitterns are rare in the UK, and are normally very shy birds, living in dense reedbeds where their plumage blends in well with the reeds and other marsh vegetation, making them hard to spot.

They are stealth hunters, and Mr Cuthbert said they are more often heard in spring when the males give out a deep “booming “ call to attract a female.

The Minsmere nature reserve, owned and managed by the RSPB, is an important Suffolk breeding site for this species and is carefully managed to provide the conditions they need for breeding.

“This autumn, the bitterns have been putting on an amazing appearance in front of the Island Mere hide, with up to three regularly being seen hunting for fish there, and preying on roach in particular,” Mr Cuthbert added.

As a volunteer guide, he leads weekly guided walks throughout the year and posts about his sightings on Twitter.

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