Hundreds of birdwatchers a day have been flocking to WWT Slimbridge to catch a rare glimpse of a Long-billed Dowitcher, a wading bird, not seen in Gloucestershire for 28 years and the currently the only sighting in the UK.
What makes this sighting extra special is the bird is displaying its orange breeding plumage; normally only seen this time of year in its breeding ground of a balmy Alaska, before heading down the west coast of America to spend the winter in Mexico.
James Lees, reserve warden at WWT Slimbridge who spotted the bird on Saturday 21 July whilst carrying out his daily count of wading birds says, “WWT Slimbridge is providing the perfect conditions for the long-billed dowitcher to stop and feed. There have only ever been three sightings here of this breed, the last being 28 years ago, and to see it with its breeding plumage is extremely rare and very exciting”. He added “within minutes of updating our Twitter feed, hundreds of birders were queuing at the door and with hundreds still visiting each day, we are extending our opening hours”.
The wader’s breeding plumage is, however, not expected to stay very long, James added: “I have noticed the beak has changed colour during the short time the bird has been here and I expect the orange plumage will soon be replaced with grey.”
It is unknown how long the bird will be at the WWT centre in Gloucestershire and staff are encouraging birders and visitors alike to come along and see this rare sight. Any updates of extended opening hours will be updated regularly on the website