The hide at Llyn Coed y Dinas, close to the southern end of the Welshpool bypass, is a good place to spend an hour at the dimming of the day. So I did, snugly wrapped in a Himalayan down jacket, a travel rug across my knees as the small waves lapped against the pebbled shore. The surface of the lake congealed into a film of ice; Venus rose, cradled in the moon’s arms. The resident birds, which are the reason for this lake being a nature reserve, paddled to their roost on a small island; I poured myself a cup of tea, watched, waited…

Patience, quietude, are our best friends when it comes to wildlife sightings. Why had I come here? The off chance that I might see, or more likely hear, a bittern? I’d no expectation of that. Naturalists George Schaller and Peter Matthiessen travelled to the remote Dolpo in the Himalayas in quest of the snow leopard. All they found were pug marks and a scat. That Zen lesson led Matthiessen to write his classic 1978 book. My own encounters with that most beautiful cat are confined to a distant glimpse on a high pass of the Tien Shan, and to emerging from my tent at the high alp of Tapovan, India, to find snow leopard prints all around my tent. He’d made my acquaintance, even if I’d not made his.

Little enough in common between bittern and snow leopard apart from red-list status. But there  are reliable records in recent years of sightings at this pool of its former  resident. Look at the phragmites fringe and the possibility is clear, despite the traffic’s roar. The lake’s an old gravel pit, created in the construction of the bypass. I’ve scanned the reedbeds and seen no sign of that dagger-beak spearing skywards, that marvel of camouflage that’s a bittern’s plumage.

No matter – I’ll come again. I remember first hearing of the bittern 70 years ago, listening with my grandfather to an episode of Out With Romany, an early countryside show on BBC Children’s Hour, from Wicken Fen. They’re coming back now, their foghorn voice booming out in the quiet places. Consider how the red kite has re-established itself, and stay hopeful.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here