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Eagle-eyed snapper bags rarest of our birds

By Linda Stewart

Published 09/01/2013

Photograph by Martina Gardiner
Photograph by Martina Gardiner

Scores of bird-watchers descended on Donegal last week after news spread of only the second sighting of a bittern since it became extinct in Ireland more than 150 years ago.

But it was local wildlife photographer Martina Gardiner who managed to capture the shot of the elusive bird — after most of the twitchers had given up and gone home.

The heron-like reedbed bird was hunted into virtual extinction in Ireland and Britain in the 19th century and only a handful have managed to recolonise the south of England — so this bittern was far from its family.

Martina is well-known for her fascination with nature photography, capturing striking images of red squirrels, otters and the night sky, and was notified by friends when the bittern made an appearance.

Bird-watching enthusiasts descended on the causeway to the island on Inch Lake on Friday and Saturday — but the bittern proved characteristically shy.

On Sunday after the bird pack left, Martina spotted the bittern as she was driving along the causeway.

“I’m very used to finding small things — like needles in haystacks,” she said.

“I’m quite patient as well.”

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