Rare bird spotted at Cley

A rare bird has been spotted at a north Norfolk nature reserve.

The Great Snipe, a small stocky wader, was first seen at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, on Wednesday night and first thing Thursday morning doing its breeding dance, something it normally only does in its home breeding ground of eastern Europe.

The bird has taken up residence in one of the centre marshy habitats in the nature reserve and its appearance has sparked a flurry of keen birdwatchers who are camped out at the reserve waiting for another glimpse.

The bird's usual breeding habitat is marshes and wet meadows with short vegetation in north eastern Europe and north western Russia. Great Snipes are migratory, wintering in Africa and the European breeding population is in steep decline.

Ed Parnell, from Norfolk Wildlife Trust which runs Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, said the bird had been seen doing a male breeding dance, standing erect with chest puffed and tail fanned and jumping into the air.

He said: 'It is quite rare to see one of these birds doing a breeding dance as they normally only do it on their breeding ground which is eastern Europe.'

Speaking about why the bird could have ended up at Cley, he said: 'It is the time of year when the birds are moving back from wintering in South Africa to their summer breeding ground and this one could have got a bit lost.'

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He said it was usual to see one or two of Great Snipes in Britain around spring or autumn time, but not usually in Norfolk and not doing the breeding dance.

Great Snipes forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, and occasional plant material. They are difficult to see, being well camouflaged in their habitat. When flushed from cover, they fly straight for a considerable distance before dropping back into vegetation.

The adult Great Snipe is slightly larger, but much bulkier, than Common Snipe. Their body is mottled brown on top and barred underneath. They have a dark stripe through the eye. The wings are broad, and a pale wingbar is visible in flight.