VIDEO: Rare warbler has birders in a flap in Hartlepool

BIRDWATCHERS swooped on the Headland after a rare species was spotted for the first time in the North-East.

Around 50 birders descended on the area yesterday morning armed with their tripods and binoculars trained closely on the Croft Gardens.

Dave Britton (centre) with twitchers looking for a Bonelli's Warbler

Dave Britton (centre) with twitchers looking for a Bonelli's Warbler

They were all here to catch a glimpse of a rare Western Bonelli’s Warbler, which had never before been seen in Cleveland or County Durham.

There have only been around 200 reported sightings for the whole country.

Keen birder Dave Britton was on his way to Fife, in Scotland, when he was paged about the bird’s appearance.

He made a U-turn just before he was due to go through the Tyne Tunnel and headed straight for Hartlepool.

A Western Bonelli's Warbler

A Western Bonelli's Warbler

Dave, 71, from Marske, said: “It is not very often that you see a new bird for Cleveland so it is quite exciting.

“The top thing for a birdwatcher is to see something you have never seen before and the next level down is seeing something new in your home county.

“It should be on route to Africa now but has got lost.”

The bird is usually found in southern Spain and migrates to Africa for the winter.

But Dave, a retired IT manager, said the recent wet and windy weather has knocked many migrant birds off course.

He said: “These strange weather conditions have brought a lot of birds into the UK. Hartlepool is teaming with migrants.

“The wind knocks them off course and the rain grounds them.”

The warbler was first spotted at the Headland on Sunday, but it was only identified after a picture was posted on the internet.

Dave added: “It is happening quite a lot these days where a rare bird is photographed and they don’t realise what it is.

“They then put a picture on the internet and other people see it and realise what it is.”

The sight of bird watchers is becoming a regular sight for Headlanders.

Just last month around 40 birders descended on the Borough Hall area to look for the yellow browed warbler which ended up in Hartlepool after taking a wrong turn from Siberia.

In May last year, the discovery of a western orphean warbler attracted scores of birders to the Headland.

And in June 2011 birders converged in their thousands to see a rare white-throated robin.