LONDON – It's more associated with Trotters than "twitchers," but the London district of Peckham has become an unlikely Mecca for birdwatchers after a rare American breed was spotted in a yard.
Nearly fifty ornithologists have descended on Denman Road, close to Peckham High Road, to see an American robin that has been blown off course from Canada by high winds.
At one stage police arrived at the property to ensure order among the excited birdwatchers, who were armed with binoculars and cameras to spot their prey.
Turdus migratorius is a blackbird-size thrush with a reddish-brown underside, gray upper parts and a streaked throat.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said that it was one of only 23 ever recorded in the UK, making its appearance in the area made famous by Del Boy and Rodney Trotter in the popular British sitcom "Only Fools and Horses" all the more unusual.
Tim Webb, a spokesman, said that a curious householder alerted the bird enthusiasts after contacting the charity to find out what it was.
He said that the bird, the most widespread thrush in North America, has been living on the street for the past few weeks.
Webb said that it was not known how the bird got to Peckham, but he suspected it may have been blown off course from Canada by strong winds.
"I'm amazed it's had the strength to get from North America to here. It must have got lost and should not be here," he explained. "It's fantastic for birdwatchers. They can save themselves a couple of hundred quid getting across to America."
"But, from the bird's point of view, it's a bit sad as he is alone and won't be able to get back home," Webb continued. "Then again, it's a nice place to end up. It's a nice and leafy garden. It could be worse, it's alive and well."
Ian Skelton, 46, a resident, said that groups of birdwatchers had been gathering in the street and at one point a police patrol arrived to investigate.
"It's exciting for birdwatchers because they do this thing called 'twitching,' where they have to see the bird to tick it off their lists. It's like train-spotting," said Skelton. "It's quite a nice little bird, just like the sort of thing you see picking up worms in the lawn, except it's got a red chest."
The American robin is a familiar sight in North America. Its success is put down to its tolerance for habitats that have been changed by human beings. It is common in residential areas where it often forages on lawns and often sings early in the morning.
However, the Peckham bird has not been wholeheartedly welcomed by the local blackbird population, some members of which have been seen trying to chase away their more colorful American cousin.
Its main danger is from cats on the prowl, but as American robins in built-up areas of the U.S. and Canada face similar problems and those in the great outdoors are liable to be hunted by wild bobcats, it should be alert to that hazard.