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Rare black-browed albatross spotted on coast

PUBLISHED: 10:26 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:41 30 September 2020

A black-browed albatross when it was last in Suffolk, in 2015    Photo: Peter Hobbs

A black-browed albatross when it was last in Suffolk, in 2015 Photo: Peter Hobbs

Archant

Birdwatchers were left stunned with the unexpected sighting of a rare black-browed albatross along the coast.

Gaius Hawes, a local birder in Lowestoft, who spotted the rare black-browed albatross. Picture: Gaius HawesGaius Hawes, a local birder in Lowestoft, who spotted the rare black-browed albatross. Picture: Gaius Hawes

The adult black-browed albatross was spotted flying south down the Suffolk coastline on Monday afternoon, with its appearance creating something of a flap.

It is understood to be only the second recorded sighting of the near threatened species in Suffolk – having last been seen off the North Sea and at the RSPB Minsmere reserve in July 2015.

The black-browed albatross is usually only found in the southern hemisphere – but occasionally they stray from their normal patterns and it was tracked flying south from an initial sighting in Lowestoft at 3.45pm on September 28, at Southwold at 4.20pm, Sizewell at 4.50pm, and Thorpeness at 5.13pm before being lost to view as it headed further south.

For birder, Gaius Hawes, spotting the black-browed albatross two miles out to sea off Lowestoft was the realisation of a dream.

He said: “I located the black-browed albatross flying south from Links Hill car park in Lowestoft – only the second time for Suffolk.

“It was a dream realised.

“I have lived in Lowestoft for 42 years and watched birds since I was 11.

“It seems ironic that I now reach the ripe old age of 71 to find the rarest bird I have ever found.

“The last and first sighting for this species in Suffolk was at Minsmere in 2015 – so to see this bird fly past Links Hill is enough to make dreams come true.”

Mr Hawes of Tonning Street, Lowestoft, is a member of local group Lowestoft Lizards.

He added: “I am thankful to Waveney Bird Club who enabled me to share information quickly via its social media, allowing seven people along the Suffolk coast to gain sight of this magnificent bird on the afternoon of September 28.

“Lowestoft is supremely positioned on any map to allow birds to be viewed, especially at this time of the year as migratory birds pass through or visit us for the winter months.

“The arrival of a bird of this rarity makes up for all the hours in the cold.

“Sometimes dreams come true, you might have to wait a long while but we all live in hope.

“The sun has not shown itself for days but it did on this bird as it flew through, it also shone on me.”

History

After the previous fleeting visit in 2015 filled birdwatchers with excitement, it was hailed as a “tremendous first for Suffolk”.

Black-browed albatrosses might be one of the most common albatross species, but they are classed as endangered – not least as they are one of the most frequently killed species in many longline fisheries.

One of the largest flying birds, they breed in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Chile with small numbers on sub-Antarctic islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

They feed mainly on shrimp, fish and squid and their wingspan can reach up to eight feet.

If the 2015 Suffolk sighting was a first, according to the information back then there had been two sightings in Norfolk since records began.


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