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Gallery: Rare bird’s arrival sees twitchers flock to Aldeburgh

12:00 18 December 2012

The Hornermann

The Hornermann's Arctic redpoll at Aldeburgh, pictured by Jon Evans

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A NEW star has arrived in style on the Suffolk coast – and it has persuaded birdwatchers to spread their wings and visit Aldeburgh from many parts of the country.

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First discovered earlier this month, the Hornemann’s Arctic redpoll has been attracting hundreds of twitchers to the town’s beach. The lone bird is from the circumpolar taiga zone of the far north. On the rare occasions it strays south to Britain it is more often than not to the northern isles, especially the Shetlands.

The Aldeburgh wanderer is the first of its kind to be seen in Suffolk and is so tame that it has proved easy for visitors to capture some fantastic photographs – as seen here, submitted by our iwitness24 contributors.

Steve Piotrowski, author of The Birds of Suffolk and ornithological consultant to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said that up until the last few days 2012 had been a disappointing year for the county’s twitching scene but there was now a real buzz in the air – and online in the birdwatching forums – thanks to the Hornemann’s Arctic redpoll.

The redpoll’s arrival comes after a Spanish sparrow – another county ‘first’ – was found in September at Landguard nature reserve, near Felixstowe, and has proved a timely end-of-year boost to fans of feathered friends.

“It has never been recorded before,” he said. “The only other rare bird we have had in the county that was twitchable was the Spanish sparrow. We went from the beginning of September right through to the middle of December and it was very, very poor – we normally get one or two unusual birds.

“There were what we call some quite significant autumn falls where [migrating] birds get caught in bad weather and normally when you get that we see one or two odd birds here in Suffolk.”

Mr Piotrowski, who will be adding the redpoll to his anthology’s next edition in 2014, said there had been four county ‘firsts’ for Suffolk last year – a sandhill crane at Boyton Marshes, an Audouin’s gull at RSPB Minsmere, a short-toed treecreeper at Landguard Bird Observatory and an extremely rare oriental turtle dove at Barsham. By comparison, 2012 had been a “bit of a disappointment” until last week.

Another ‘first’ for Suffolk came last week in the form of a vagrant sea duck from North America, a surf scoter. That had been seen off RSPB Minsmere by just one observer, former chairman of the Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee Richard Drew, of Westleton.

Mr Piotrowski added: “The year’s had a sting in the tail – otherwise we would have been saying what a terrible year it had been. I was only telling someone the other day how it has been the worst year ever for birdwatching in Suffolk.”

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