Birdwatchers who descended on an Oxfordshire town for the chance to snap an extremely rare bird have raised thousands of pounds for charity.

Photographers headed to Hallett Close in Wantage on Monday (September 26) after news broke that a Common Nighthawk was spotted snoozing on a garden fence.

The medium-sized, nocturnal bird weighs just 80g and measures 24cm in length, with a wing-span of 64cm.

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The Common Nighthawk is native to North America and so there has only been around 30 sightings in the UK, many of which have been on islands rather than the mainland.

The little bird was spotted by a homeowner in the morning who thought it was odd the creature was sitting on the fence in daylight and believed it was injured.

Oxford Mail: A crowd quickly grew on the street A crowd quickly grew on the street (Image: Newsquest)

They contacted Little Foxes, an animal rescue centre set up by Penny Little, who in turn got in touch with the county bird recorder for Oxfordshire Ian Lewington.

Mr Lewington, who lived just five miles away in Didcot headed the house where he was left “shaking” when realised the significance of the species.

The 57-year-old explained to the homeowner that a lot of people would wish to see the Common Nighthawk. As the bird was roosting on the fence, rather than injured, it would fly away at dusk meaning the disruption would last for just a day.

A pager alert was sent out to twitchers around the country who flocked to the street to catch a sight of the bird.

It was encouraged that people coming to see the bird would make a charity donation.

Mr Lewington explained: “It was amazing. There are about 30 recordings ever in the UK. Vitally, all of these have been islands not the mainland.

“[The birds] should not be here and are usually in pretty poor shape and have never hung around.

“This is the first one in living memory that was available for lots of people to go and see on the UK mainland.”

During the course of the day, £4,000 was raised and the homeowner decided to split the money between Little Foxes and the local Spinal Injury Unit.


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This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

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