Tourists flock to Suffolk for rare bird

IT'S a case of watch the birdie at Felixstowe, where a rare visitor of the feathered kind has brought a mini tourist boom.Twitchers – bird lovers who will drop everything to travel hundreds of miles to see an unusual species – have been flocking to the resort over the past few days.

IT'S a case of watch the birdie at Felixstowe, where a rare visitor of the feathered kind has brought a mini tourist boom.

Twitchers – bird lovers who will drop everything to travel hundreds of miles to see an unusual species – have been flocking to the resort over the past few days.

It is reckoned 5,000 ornithologists have visited Landguard Nature Reserve to train their binoculars and long-range cameras on the trumpeter finch, a small African bird with a voice like a toy trumpet's "toot".

Tea rooms, shops and pubs around the town have been doing a roaring trade as the twitchers have taken a break from their vigil to grab drinks and snacks.

Nigel Odin, of Landguard Bird Observatory, said: "Over the weekend we had more than 5,000 birdwatchers descend on Landguard from as far afield as Scotland and Wales to see the trumpeter finch.

"It is only the eighth of its kind to be seen in the whole of the British Isles and the first since one in Sutherland, northern Scotland, in 1992, so it is quite a rarity and attracting a lot of attention.

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"At any one time we have had up to 230 twitchers standing in a line with their lenses trained on the bird.

"Some come and have a look, others look and then take a break and go off and have a look round Felixstowe and get some food, and then return.

"We have not been surprised by the amount who have turned up because these days it is so easy to get the information out quickly to everyone using mobile phones, text and the internet."

It has meant car parks at Landguard jammed solid – drivers are being encouraged to park at Manor End and walk across the reserve. Yesterday there were around 40 to 50 twitchers on site throughout the day.

How long the bird will stay though is anyone's guess.

"I think you will need a crystal ball for that – though we hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as the one spotted in Sussex in 1984 when after three days it was eaten by a sparrowhawk," said Mr Odin.

That was also the fate of a rare Blythe's pipit ten years ago at Landguard as twitchers watched.

"The reason why this individual decided to visit Suffolk is not known. Landguard Nature Reserve is of global importance as an example of vegetated shingle and the finch probably felt quite at home in the exposed arid areas of the Landguard peninsula," added Mr Odin.

It was first spotted by Ipswich ornithologist Lee Woods scanning the reserve from his vantage point in the bird observatory.

The trumpeter finch, a male in non-breeding plumage, is a little sandy brown bird with a pink rump and a pale pink beak.

Factfile: Trumpeter finch

n They breed from the Canary Islands, across north Africa and the Middle East, and also central Asia.

n The first trumpeter finch recorded in Britain at Minsmere nature reserve on May 30, 1971, and others have been seen twice at Sutherland, Scotland; West Sussex; Foulness, Essex; Holy Island, Northumberland; and Orkney.

n Stony desert or semi-desert is favoured for breeding. The birds lay four eggs in a nest in a rock crevice.

n They eat mainly seeds, and, particularly in the breeding season, insects.

n It is a small, long-winged bird. It has a large head and short, very thick bill. The summer male has a red bill, grey head and neck, and pale brown upper parts. The breast, rump and tail are pink, the last having dark terminal feathers.

n Its song is a buzzing nasal trill, like a tin trumpet.

source: the internet

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