Sandhill crane spotted in Kessingland

A SPECIES of crane, usually based in North America, has made what is believed to be its first-ever visit to north Suffolk.

A Sandhill Crane was yesterday (Sunday) spotted at several places on the Suffolk coast.

But the first initial sighting was reported in Kessingland by a keen Lowestoft bird club member, Chris Darby, about 10.40am yesterday.

'The adult Sandhill Crane that has been migrating south along the east coast from Aberdeenshire in the last few days was seen flying south from Kessingland around 10.40 on Sunday,' a spokesman for Lowestoft bird club said.

'It had last been reported flying over Rimac in Lincolnshire at noon on Saturday, and had managed to reach Kessingland without being detected elsewhere!

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'After a brief stopover at North Warren it eventually settled in the Boyton area until dusk, where this addition to the Suffolk list not surprisingly attracted a steady stream of admirers.'

Hundreds of bird watchers flocked to Boyton village, near Orford, as twitchers eager to catch a glimpse of the Sandhill Crane, only ever seen in the British Isles four times before – including sightings in Cork, Ireland in 1905 and Faroe in the Shetland Islands, Scotland in 1981 - turned out in force.

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The large grey bird with its distinctive red forehead migrates to Florida and other southern American states during the winter.

But the recent Hurricane Katia, which hit the eastern coast of America last month, is believed to have knocked the migrating bird off course, dragging it across the Atlantic - leading to sightings over Kessingland, at the RSPB reserve in North Warren and then flying close to Orford Ness at about 12.30pm by bird spotters from the Suffolk Ornithologists' Group (SOG), before it settled in Boyton for the night.

Steve Piotrowski, president of SOG, and a bird watcher for the last 50 years, said he counts himself lucky to be one of the people who spotted the 'magnificent' creature.

'Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see such a rare bird. It is very exciting for us, I count myself very lucky.'

Ian Barthorpe, spokesman for RSPB Minsmere, added: 'It's a pretty exciting sight because it should be migrating from the Canadian plains down to New Mexico, but instead it's within sight of Hollesley and the marshes near Shingle Street.'

RSPB experts said it was possible the bird would stay in the UK or spend the rest of its life migrating up and down the eastern side of the Atlantic.

They said it was unlikely the crane would fly back to North America.

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