A rare bird not seen in Britain for over 150 years has been spotted on the Isles of Scilly – making the archipelago a hotspot for eagle-eyed twitchers.
The Egyptian vulture is endangered and could number just 12,000 in the wild in the whole world, making them hard to find even in their native breeding zones of southern Europe, Africa, and Asia.
But one was been spotted on Monday, June 14, resting in a tree on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly and over on neighbouring island Tresco.
This marks the first sighting of the bird in 153 years, after the last time was spotted in the UK on 1868 – when one was shot by a farmer in Peldon, Essex.
Another was spotted in Bridgwater Bay, Somerset and Bristol, in October 1825, but amazingly that bird was also shot.
Will Wagstaff, who was leading a birding tour group on the island of Tresco, said they couldn’t believe their luck when they spotted the bird.
He added: “Rare migrants are few and far between on Scilly in mid June.
“So, the news that a ‘big bird’ had been seen in the fog over St Mary’s early in the day was intriguing to say the least – especially as the range of species being suggested was rather wide.
“To say I was surprised to then see an Egyptian Vulture appear out of the mist over my head was an understatement.”
Will said he was leading the group between the Abbey and Great Pools on Tresco in mid morning when they first spotted it.
He added: “Thankfully the bird flew by and sat on the pines on Middle Down where it remained for about an hour and a half before taking off.
“It was over Tresco for a while before being seen over St Mary’s.
“All the gulls were spooked again by something in late afternoon but we could not see what had caused their alarm.
“I gather the only accepted British records were in 1825 and 1868, so this was long overdue and has aroused a lot of interest in the UK birding community.
“Until this bird appeared I had been happy with a White Wagtail and four Grey Herons. It only takes one bird to make a day and what a bird it was.”
Other bird-watchers who saw it couldn’t believe their luck.
Posting pictures of the bird on Twitter, Scott Reid said: “A few flight shots of the Egyptian vulture from yesterday afternoon before it departed Tresco for a tour of St. Mary’s.
“An exceptionally cool bird in flight, a very surreal moment seeing it in Scillonian air space.”