Leading article: Boom at the top

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Some things are booming, fortunately. Not the economy, admittedly, but bitterns. The RSPB reports that these secretive, stocky members of the heron family, once close to extinction, are breeding in record numbers in the UK thanks to improved protection of our remaining wetlands.

The bitterns are, of course, booming in two ways. It is not just that more of them are raising chicks. The distinctive sound of the mating male, often likened to the sound of a foghorn is, in fact, called a "boom".

Bitterns are one of several rare, or even endangered, birds that British conservationists have succeeded in bringing back to this country in recent years. The long-lost crane has started to breed again in the reedbeds of East Anglia. Turkey-sized great bustards, extinct since the 1830s, have been recently restored to Salisbury Plain; the majestic sea eagle, which was hunted to extinction before the First World War, soars again over the Western Isles.

Much is made of the sharp decline in the numbers of many our birds and animal species. Let's not forget there have been gains as well as the losses, starting with revived bitterns, booming in every sense of the word.

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