Village braced for invasion of twitchers as rare visitor flies in

John Roberts A village in Yorkshire is set for an invasion of twitchers following the sighting of a rare American robin which has been blown across the Atlantic Ocean by gales.

The songbird, which has a brick red chest, moved into gardens in Primrose Lane and Primrose Drive in Gilstead, near Bingley, was first spotted by residents on Wednesday.

The arrival has created great excitement among birdwatchers, who believe it could be the first ever sighting of an American robin in Yorkshire.

Yesterday more than 70 twitchers gathered in Gilstead for a sighting.

Bradford Ornithological Group spokesman Paul King said: "This is a very exciting time. The bird was probably blown across by the westerlies we have been having.

"It is incredible that a small bird could make such a journey but with the strong winds it probably didn't take it more than a day or so.

"There were 70 people up there yesterday and there was no room to park. But if the bird is still here at the weekend then I think hundreds of people are going to be coming up here."

Mr King said twitchers regularly monitored websites for bird sightings across the country.

There has also been a sighting of a firecrest, a bird rare in the north of England, at Dowley Gap sewage works a quarter of a mile away from the American robin, which gives birdwatchers an added incentive.

It is not the first time an American robin has been spotted in the region. One in Grimsby caused mass interest – but its transatlantic journey ended tragically when the visitor was killed by a sparrowhawk in an incident captured by a birdwatcher on video camera.

The new visitor is a young bird, probably raised last summer in Canada from where virtually all the population migrates south to escape the winter's intense cold.

The bird is not related to the much smaller European robins. American robins, which are the size of blackbirds, got their name because their red underside reminded European settlers in America of the familiar birds back home.

See Birdwatch in Country Week tomorrow.