THE country’s bird-watching community is in a flap over the arrival of a rare gull in the region.

It has been classified as a “mega sighting” the highestlevel alert in the twitching world. Hundreds of enthusiasts – some from as far away as Hampshire – have congregated at Cowpen Bewley, near Stockton, for a glimpse of the glaucous-winged gull.

In fact, several had problems distinguishing it from the other gulls at the nature reserve because it looks almost exactly the same. The large gull, common in the US, is rare in our colder climes.

It was first seen on New Year’s Eve, but some enthusiasts believe it could have been here for longer.

Ron McCombe, from Northumberland, spent most of Friday trying to spot it.

He said: “It is very, very rare; it is what is known as a mega. It does look just like all the other seagulls, but there are subtle differences.

“It is very pale and has a grey mantle at the top of its head and there are small markings on the wingtips.”