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Last Updated: Monday, 4 June 2007, 20:36 GMT 21:36 UK
Return of heron after 141 years
The Squacco Heron seen at Crossness Nature Reserve
The Squacco Heron was last seen in Greater London in 1866
A species of bird which has not been seen in Greater London for 141 years has reappeared.

A squacco heron was last spotted at the Kingsbury Reservoir, in north-west London, in 1866.

But now hundreds of birdwatchers have flocked to the Crossness Nature Reserve in Bexley, south-east London, after one was seen there last week.

The sighting follows a 500,000 project at Crossness by Thames Water, Bexley Council and the charity Groundwork.

Work has involved restoring reed bed and ditch habitat for water voles and creating a new wader scrape - a shallow body of water with muddy margins - which has attracted the heron.

The site has also been opened up to the public with a wildlife viewing screen enabling ornithologists to get close to the bird without disturbing it.

It is exciting to see this new wetland area so favoured by a rare bird
Thames Water's Martin Wagner

The squacco heron, which is mainly found in southern Europe and winters in Africa, has a stocky body and beige plumage.

There have also been confirmed sightings of a rare purple heron flying over Crossness, and the first quail to visit the Bexley Borough since 1969 has been seen on a number of occasions this week.

The squacco heron has been spotted in the Southern Marshes of Crossness.

Martin Wagner, from Thames Water said: "The sighting of the squacco heron is a great success for the company as well as for wildlife.

"It is exciting to see this new wetland area so favoured by a rare bird."

The squacco was spotted on the afternoon of 29 May and has been seen on the marshes ever since.

A rare heron has been spotted in Bexley

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