Rare bird ruffles feathers among nation’s twitchers

John and Betty Burton in their back garden following a visit from a Nightjar.
John and Betty Burton in their back garden following a visit from a Nightjar.

A TORRENT of ‘twitchers’ descended on a Codnor couple’s home after they discovered a rare bird roosting in their garden.

Retired Kaplan worker and occasional bird enthusiast John Burton was strolling in his back garden on Wright Avenue when he spotted the nightjar resting on a fence.

John, 72, recognised it to be the migratory bird, normally only found in heath land and extremely rare in Derbyshire. He spotted it after it had featured on a TV show featuring ornithologist Bill Oddie.

After news spread on an internet bird watching forum, watchers descended on the John and wife Betty’s house to photograph the spectacle for an entire week while it stayed.

The Codnor couple said they had so many visitors they had to put a sign on the front door informing wildlife enthusiasts to head around the back gate.

John said: “The people that came said they had been bird watchers for 30 years and had never seen anything like this before - it was the situation more than anything that was unusual, you never see this type of bird in a back garden.”

Wife Betty, 65, said: “Within three days we had more people come to the house than we have had in the past year!”

The visitors started coming after one of the couple’s friends posted that a nightjar was resting in their garden on an online bird enthusiast forum.

Throughout the week watchers from as far as Barnsley, Macclesfield and Birmingham turned up on the Burton’s doorstep.

But the bird, which feeds on insects such as moths eventually left a week later on Saturday, October 1.

The couple did not hear it make its unusual ‘machine-gun like” birdsong while it rested at the house for a week.

Local expert and wildlife photographer Dave King, 65, from Forester’s Road, Ripley, said the nightjar would have been migrating to Africa and had ‘decided to stop off in Codnor’.

“It must have got worn out,” part-time consultant Mr King said: “It is very unusual for it to stay that long.”

Mr King said the bird is rare to Derbyshire, but there may by isolated numbers of the species dotted around the county.

Betty said she enjoyed the whole experience, saying: “Sharing that knowledge and the company was nice.

“Maybe he will come back this way on his way back from Africa!”