Birdwatchers who travelled to see mockingbird fined for Covid breach

Bird enthusiasts flocked to Exmouth in hopes of catching glimpse of rare bird

Kate Ng
Monday 15 February 2021 16:36 GMT
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A rare Northern Mockingbird was spotted in the garden of Exmouth resident, Chris Biddle, on 6 February 202
A rare Northern Mockingbird was spotted in the garden of Exmouth resident, Chris Biddle, on 6 February 202 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Birdwatchers who broke lockdown rules in pursuit of a rare bird sighting have been fined by police in Devon.

Exmouth resident Chris Biddle posted images of a northern mockingbird perched in his garden to Twitter on 6 February, sparking a flurry of excitement among the birdwatching community.

It is the third time the North American species is believed to have been spotted in the UK, with the last sighting recorded as far back as 1988.

Mr Biddle wrote on the Rare Bird Alert website that the mockingbird was first seen eating flowers in a palm tree on 23 January, and had become a regular visitor to his garden.

Some enthusiasts headed to Exmouth in hopes of spotting the rarely-seen bird, but ended up breaching government guidelines that state people should not travel outside their local area during the current coronavirus lockdown.

Devon and Cornwall Police said they received reports early on Saturday morning about potential breaches of regulations in the coastal town.

The force said in a statement: “It was reported that a number of individuals, suspected to have travelled from outside the area, were trying to photograph a rare bird which had been seen in a garden.”

Fines were issued to five people for breaching coronavirus lockdown regulations, it added.

The bird, identified by its long tail feathers and grey-toned plumage, is known for its mimicking ability and is found in abundance in southern Canada, across the US, Mexico and the northern Caribbean.

According to experts at BirdGuides, the species is considered an occasional “transatlantic vagrant”, which described birds that appear outside of their normal range of migration or habitation.

There have been two accepted sightings of the Northern Mockingbird previously in the UK, one in Saltash in Cornwall in 1982 and the other at Horsey Island, Essex, six years later.

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