Twitchers from across the country have “flocked” to an industrial estate in Shropshire for the chance to glimpse a rare bird.
The colourful bee-eater bird was first seen at the Condover industrial estate near Shrewsbury on Monday afternoon, bringing birdwatchers and their binoculars rushing to the site to get a closer look.
It was first spotted by chance by Tom Lowe, a member of the Shropshire Ornithological Society, who had been at the industrial estate with his wife to buy a new garden gate.
Mr Lowe, 35, from Cantlop, said he had known as soon as he saw the bird what it was. “They are just such a distinctive shape and they are just such a great array of colours,” he said.
“Fortunately, I had my binoculars with me.”
He sent out an e-mail to other members of the society and a rare birds alert service, resulting in more than a dozen birdwatchers making their way to the scene to see the bird for themselves.
Mr Lowe said that although his job involved carrying out bird surveys, this discovery had been totally by chance.
Bee-eaters are normally found in southern European countries such as Spain and Italy. British sightings of the colourful bird fluctuate each year, with the birds normally seen in coastal areas. Mr Lowe said this year only one other sighting had been recorded in the country, in the Isle of Wight.
He said it was a mystery how the bird made its way to Shropshire. It stayed at the industrial estate until Monday morning.
“It is a bit of a mad one really. You get a handful of records across the UK every year,” he said.
Mike Shurmer, RSPB conservation officer for Shropshire, said: “I think it is probably the first sighting for Shropshire. It is one of the birds that do get seen in Britain every year. Mostly, they are seen on the coasts, it is pretty unusual for them to be seen inland. It is pretty remarkable.”
Angus Andrew, from Shrewsbury, was among the group of birdwatchers who got to see the Bee-eater at first hand.
He said he had been on a bird identification course in Preston Montford when the tutor Kevin Clements, a member of the West Midlands Bird Club and a bird recorder, was alerted to the
Bee-eater’s presence in Shropshire. Mr Andrew said: “It was spotted at about 4.30pm and it stuck around most of the evening and next morning. It has now gone.”
He said the sighting is the first verified recording of Bee-eaters in the county. “It was fascinating to watch it catching bees with agile flight and return to a tree where it would knock its prey against a branch to remove the sting before eating it,” he said.