Five birdwatchers have been fined for breaking Covid-19 restrictions after they travelled to Devon to try to see a rare specimen after a Twitter tipoff.
They were looking to catch sight of a northern mockingbird, normally found in North America, which had been spotted by Exmouth resident Chris Biddle.
Biddle shared pictures on Twitter on 6 February of a bird in his garden along with the caption: “Spotted this little chap in our garden in Exmouth over the last few days, mainly in the holly and palm flowers. We think a northern mockingbird, any ideas?”
He also wrote on the Rare Bird Alert website that the mockingbird was first seen eating flowers in a palm tree on 23 January, and it had become a regular visitor to his garden, the Independent reported.
The five people who travelled to Exmouth to photograph the bird were fined after Devon and Cornwall police were contacted at the weekend over breaches to coronavirus lockdown rules.
In a statement, the force said: “It was reported that a number of individuals, suspected to have travelled from outside the area, were trying to photograph a rare bird which had been seen in a garden.”
The grey, long-tailed songbird is not thought to have been seen in the UK since the late 1980s, when it was glimpsed in Essex. Known for its mimicking ability, it is the state bird of five US states, including Florida and Texas. It is also native to southern Canada, Mexico and the northern Caribbean.
The fines came more than a month after Derbyshire police cancelled £200 fixed penalty notices given to two women who had gone for a walk while drinking coffee, five miles from their homes.
Officers said the pair could have stayed closer to their homes in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, and their actions were “clearly not in the spirit of the national effort” to reduce travel and the spread of coronavirus. The force later withdrew the fines and apologised for “any concern caused”.