Visitors from as far as Norway visit Cley for New Year glimpse of western sandpiper

It is said that birds of a feather flock together.

And so do birders - especially on New Year's Day, when a rare bird is about.

Today, hundreds of bird-watchers landed at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's (NWT) Cley Marshes nature reserve for a glimpse of the western sandpiper, which has made the location its winter home for five weeks.

Over the last few weeks, people have made special journeys from as far as Norway and Germany to see the North American wader, which has never before been seen in Norfolk and has only been spotted eight times in the UK.

The NWT reserve and visitor centre were particularly busy today because many birders like to collect the names of birds spotted by them throughout a calendar year.


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So, clutching their new 'British list' for 2012, they were looking forward to putting the western sandpiper in as a new sighting - even if they saw in the previous weeks.

Jeff and Helen Bailey, from Leverstock Green, Hertfordshire, were spending the New Year birding on the north Norfolk coast, and saw the western sandpiper this morning.

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Mrs Bailey said: 'We saw it on Friday, but that was 2011. Now we've seen it in 2012 as well. We love seeing new places and spotting bird species that we've never seen before.

'We choose our holiday locations according to migration routes. We've been to Alaska, the Galapagos islands, the Seychelles and lots of other places.'

Steve and Elise O'Donnell, from Albrighton in Shropshire, set out for north Norfolk in the morning, specifically to spot the western sandpiper.

Mrs O'Donnell said: 'We were pretty anxious until we saw it. The western sandpiper is what we call a 'lifer' - it's a bird we had never seen before.'

Jonathan Clarkson, NWT visitor centre manager, said: 'The good weather is bringing in the visitors, and we've probably had more than 2,000 in the last few weeks just to see the western sandpiper.

'We've had our best December for visitors since the centre opened four-and-a-half years ago.'

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