Rare Little Bunting spotted by Sunderland bird watchers

Little Bunting in Elba Park, Sunderland. Photo: Tristan Reid The Little Bunting might stay in Sunderland until spring before returning to Russia or Scandinavia

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A bird rarely seen in the north-east of England has been spotted in Sunderland.

The environmental and communities charity Groundwork North East said the Little Bunting had been spotted on "several occasions" at Elba Park on the outskirts of the city.

Fewer than 30 are seen in the UK each year and this is the ninth ever recorded in the County Durham area.

County recorder for Durham Bird Club, Mark Newsome, said the bird had probably been confused by the weather.

"Quite often in autumn birds get blown over this way, if you have a period of easterly winds," he said.

"It's likely that he came over to this area a couple of weeks ago when it was all murky."

He said the bird might stay for the winter if it is mild, latching on to similar local species, or "feed up for another week" and carry on its migration.

"People don't really know what happens to these lost birds," he said.

"No-one knows whether they reorientate and get back to where they're meant to be."

'Haven for wildlife'

The Little Bunting nests in Scandinavia and Russia and then migrates to South East Asia in winter.

Mr Newsome said it is sometimes spotted around the Shetland Islands and the Isles of Scilly but rarely in Sunderland or County Durham.

Andrea Baxter, senior community ranger for Groundwork who manage Elba Park, said: "We are delighted to have this new addition to the park and are amazed at how much attention it has generated.

"Even though the park is only a few years old it's really starting to develop as a haven for wildlife."

Elba Park opened in October 2010 on the site of the former Lambton Colliery and Cokeworks site as part of a project to reclaim contaminated industrial land.

Groundwork is asking people to report any other wildlife sightings.

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