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Rare birds blown off course by Storm Agnes end up in UK as twitchers race to see them

Flocks of rare birds have arrived on UK shores following Storm Agnes, with birdwatchers racing across the country to catch a glimpse.

The storm, which battered the UK with gale force 80mph gusts between Wednesday, September 27 and Thursday, September 28, delivered a population of song birds that have never before graced British shores.

Birdwatchers have reported more than a dozen sightings of small songbirds, including the rare Baltimore Oriole, a bird native to North America known for its shocking orange breast.

Others include the Tennessee Warbler and Philadelphia Vireowas, two other American migratory species.

While an unmissable sight for twitchers across the country, the news isn’t so great for the birds, which may struggle to survive on British shores.

Given their native habitats, the UK’s climate is considerably chiller and less forgiving, with their usual stateside meals not available this far east.

Tennessee Warblers, for instance, commonly prey on the spruce budworm – a native to the US and Canada, where the birds breed almost exclusively.

Philadelphia Vireowas, which inhabit the northern US but travel as far south as Nicaragua, also primarily eat insects found between North and Central America.

If the birds fail to stock up enough appropriate food, they may struggle to migrate south for the winter.

So far, British birding site Rare Bird Alert has recorded sightings of 15 “uber-rare land birds”.

Most of these, according to the site, were in Pembrokeshire, which has seen the vast majority of rare bird activity, followed doggedly by twitchers.

In total, they make 49 individual birds and “one of the most memorable couple of days in British and Irish birding history”, the site added.

Dr Alexander Lees, chair of the British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee, joined birdwatchers in celebrating the unusual sightings but told The Guardian their arrival is a “bittersweet phenomenon”.

He said some birds will have “drowned at sea” after they were forced off course.

Bird populations have dwindled in recent years, but the number of new, rare arrivals exceeds reports from more than 30 years ago.



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