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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 12:41 GMT
Rare bird found in coastal garden
White-crowned sparrow (Marcus G Martin)
White-crowned sparrows are common in the northern US
A retired clergyman's garden in a coastal village in North Norfolk has become home to a rare white-crowned sparrow normally seen in North America.

The bird was spotted by Sue and Richard Bending in their garden at Cley.

Within hours of publicising the find dozens of bird-watchers descended on the quiet village with their cameras.

Richard Bending said they believed the bird may have been blown off course in a storm in Canada and was blown to Norfolk or hitched a ride on a boat.

We just feel very privileged that it chose our garden
Richard Bending

The couple contacted a local bird expert in North Norfolk which is home to several wildlife reserves which attract a great number of migrating species.

Mr Bending said: "He identified the bird as a rare white-crowned sparrow which had had confirmed sightings in Britain in 1977 and 1995 although there had been several other reports during this time.

"This confirmed how rare it was. We knew it was unusual as soon as my wife spotted it in the garden and we borrowed a book from the local library to see what it was.

"This indicated that it was a white-crowned sparrow distinguished by the markings on its head. We then asked a local expert to confirm the find.

"It perches in a beech hedge in the garden and comes out to feed on the gravel path in the morning when we put down seed."

Migrating south

Mr Bending was very surprised at the speed of the bush telegraphy of the bird watchers because within hours of going public they started to arrive from all over the country.

"No-one knows how it got here but we are speculating that it was caught in a storm while migrating south from the east coast of Canada to the United States.

"It could have become lost or tired and hitched a ride on a boat coming to England. We just feel very privileged that it chose our garden.

"We do not know how long it will stay but we hope it will spend the winter with us."

Experts think the white crowned sparrow crossed the Atlantic on a ship

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