Bird-watchers flock to Welney after rare bluefront spotted on reserve

BIRD-WATCHERS have flocked to Welney after a rare tiny, brightly coloured bird was spotted on a reserve.

Each spring a handful of white-spotted bluethroat pass through the UK on their migration to Spain and central Europe.

While the species have never been recorded breeding here, a single male spent most of last summer at Welney Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.

Today warden Jon Smith said the bird had returned to the reserve.

“The whole team were quietly optimistic that we might see a white-spotted bluethroat again this summer and I was pleased when I first found the bird singing on the reserve at the end of March,” he said.

“The bird is slightly smaller than a robin, but very distinctive as the brown plumage gives way to the bright blue throat with a white spot in the middle. This feature becomes more obvious once the bird is in full song”.

The white-spotted race of bluethroat normally breeds in Spain and Central Europe, so it is unheard of for one to hold a territory in the UK. There is another race, the red-spotted bluethroat, which also passes through the UK, and has bred in the UK before but very infrequently.

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WWT reserve staff carefully maintain the water levels and reedy edges on parts of the reserve which create the preferred habitat for the bluethroat. During the day the bird will move in a skulking manner amongst low vegetation at the water’s edge to find the insects it feeds on.

White-spotted bluethroat use vocal mimicry and incorporate a range of other bird song into their own; this is normally heard early in the morning.

WWT staff hope that the lonely male bluethroat will sing so well that he attracts a female.

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