ONE of the UK’s most rare and threatened bird species has successfully bred on the Gwent Levels for the first time in over 200 years.

Bittern chicks have fledged from two separate nests at the Newport Wetlands nature reserve.

The sighting was first recorded by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) team member Kevin Dupé, who has worked at the reserve for over 19 years, and later confirmed by local county bird recorder and ornithologist Darryl Spittle.

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Adult bittern in flight at Newport Wetlands Nature Reserve. Credit: Darryl Spittle Gwent Ornithological Society

Bitterns are a type of heron which live exclusively in reed beds. The species was once thought to be extinct in the UK following years of persecution and a dramatic loss of habitat, but populations have since returned to areas where high quality reed bed habitat still exists.

Mr Dupé said: “To see bitterns nesting at Newport Wetlands is a truly wonderful sight, and a real achievement for those of us who have been involved in habitat conservation at the site for a long time.

“In the last few years bitterns have been nesting and breeding in areas of North Wales where there has been extensive reedbed restoration, and we had only hoped to see the same success here.


“Wetlands are an important habitat in need of our help. As well allowing species like the bittern to come back from the brink, they can also help us in the battle against climate change by storing harmful carbon and holding back flood water.”

Newport Wetlands is managed by NRW in partnership with RSPB Cymru and Newport City Council.

RSPB Cymru's South Wales area manager Cellan Michael, said: “Newport Wetlands is an important home for wildlife and a valuable source of nature to the large urban population living in nearby towns and cities. We’re delighted that bitterns are nesting here, and they’re joining a suite of rare wildlife that thrives on the reserve.

“The last record of bitterns nesting in south Wales was over 200 years ago, so the fact that this iconic bird is nesting at Newport Wetlands goes to show how the creation and management of reedbeds at this site has paid off. We hope that this nesting will be a sign of what’s to come, and that more rare wildlife will settle at this site and across the Gwent Levels in the future.”

Darryl Spittle, county bird recorder from the Gwent Ornithological Society said: “It was great to hear that Bitterns had bred successfully at the Newport Wetlands, another notable achievement for the NRW management team and an exciting addition to Gwent's current breeding avifauna. Whilst Bitterns possibly nested on the Gwent Levels in the past, the relentless drainage of wetlands in the 18th century mean it may have been the best part of 250 years since Bittern last fledged youngsters in the county."

The car park at Newport Wetlands recently re-opened, having been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic - but visitors are being asked to adhere to social distancing guidance at all times.