AN AMERICAN immigrant has been making a big splash with bird-watchers from across the country.
The foreigner - a ring-billed gull, which normally nests on the other side of the Atlantic - has moved into a pond by the quarry at Sands Lane, Mirfield.
The rare bird was spotted by David Tattersley in November, who recognised the distinctive black ring around its bill and took some photos of it.
There are thought to only be a few of the birds nesting in Britain, as they normally spend the summer in North America, moving to South America for the winter.
Russell Smithson, from Kirklees Friends of the Environment, said the one at Sands Lane was probably blown off course. He said: “Once they get over here they tend to hang about, and it must have picked Sands Lane as it’s winter home.”
He said that the Mirfield bird is easy for bird-watchers to spot because it sits on an island in the middle of the pond. Mr Smithson said this could make it the most well-watched ring-billed gull in Britain.
He said that hundreds of bird-watchers had already visited the site, and that around 30 or 40 were showing up every weekend.
A ring-billed gull was seen at the same spot in Sands Lane last March. Mr Smithson said: “I can’t see it being a different one. I think it probably turned up last year and it’s been lurking on the west coast of England.”
When they become adults, many ring-billed gulls return to breed at the colony where they first hatched.
The birds then tend to return to the same breeding spot every year, often nesting within a few metres of the spot where they nested the year before.
Many return to the same wintering site every year too, which would explain why the Mirfield bird has returned every year.
But now that it has settled in Britain, it doesn’t show any sign of returning to its birthplace to breed.