Rare bird spotted in South Shields - thousands of miles from home

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A rare bird is getting twitchers in a flap at a South Tyneside coastal beauty spot.

The Richard’s Pipit was first discovered by experienced ornithologist Ross Ahmed back in December - near to the replica gun platform on The Leas, South Shields.

The sighting led to a number of bird enthusiasts heading to the area to witness the bird for themselves.

The bird usually spends its winters in India and south-east Asia - but this one has remained in South Tyneside for a month.

It is thought the small brown bird has travelled around 4,300 from its breeding ground of Siberia to South Shields.

Mr Ahmed, who has been interested in birds from an early age said: “The big wow factor is how far this little bird has flown.

No one really knows how it has ended up here. There had been some suggestion it had been blown off course by the wind during migration.

Ross Ahmed

“I’ve measured the distance from the approximate centre of Richard’s Pipits’s breeding range to South Shields in GIS. It’s about 43,00 miles (6,900 km) - a staggering distance for a bird that could fit in the palm of your hand.

“No one really knows how it has ended up here. There had been some suggestion it had been blown off course by the wind during migration.

“However, some people have disputed that theory and say they are exploring new parts of the world in which to breed in.

“When I spotted it, I put it on Twitter and it attracted a lot of attention from birdwatchers.

“That’s the motivation, to see a rare bird, that’s what we aim to do.”

Mr Ahmed, who turned his hobby of birdwatching into a career after becoming an ornithologist, added: “When I first spotted it in December, everybody wanted to see it as quite often the birds don’t linger that long.

“So it is quite unusual for this one to still be around.

“We are in quite a good position living on the East coast as a lot of birds travelling from the West do end up here, it would be extremely rare you would see these kind of birds inland.”

The Richard’s Pipit breeds in open grasslands and is a a solitary bird which feeds on insects, larvae and seed.

It is noticeable for its long hind claws and upright stance.

Other rare birds spotted at the Leas over the years include a Pallas Grasshopper Warbler, an Eastern Crowned Warbler and an Isabelline Shrike also known as a Butcher Bird.