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Thousands of birdwatchers flock to Slimbridge to see rare little bustard

Twitchers waiting to get a glimpse of the little bustard. Credit: ITV News West Country

Thousands of bird-watchers have descended on a Gloucestershire wildlife centre in the hope of catching a glimpse of a rare bird not seen in the county for more than 70 years.

The little bustard was first spotted by twitcher Martin McGill at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust on Sunday (June 23). It was caught on camera by Ken Hills that afternoon.

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About 2,000 birdwatchers have now flocked to the site in Slimbridge, hoping they’ll see the bird up close.

Among those was Fiona McLaine, who had travelled more than 300 miles from her home in Loch Lomond, Scotland, to photograph the bird.

Fiona McLaine. Credit: ITV News West Country

I left just after midnight last night and drove down overnight. I got here just after 7am and have been looking ever since. I think it’s madness, really.

– Fiona McLaine

The last reported sighting in the county of the chicken-sized bird was in May 1946 in Northleach and in Britain in 2014.

Can you see the little bustard? Credit: ITV News West Country

Little bustards live and breed in grassland areas. There is a resident population in Spain, with migratory populations in France, Ukraine, southern parts of Russia and Kazakhstan.

Reserve warden, Martin McGill, said it was unclear why the bird had ventured so far north.

There’s every chance that this European heatwave has forced it to move on. We don’t know why it’s decided to come this far north this year.

We will wait and see what happens - there might be a pattern of other European birds moving ahead of this hot weather.

– Martin McGill, Warden, WWT