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The day a golden-winged warbler arrived in Larkfield Tesco's car park back in the 80s has been recalled in a new book


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It was a tiny songbird but it caused one of the biggest migrations of twitchers to west Kent ever recorded.

The day thousands of birdwatchers from across the country flocked to Lunsford Park Tesco to see a bird never before seen in this country has been put in the spotlight again by a new book.

The golden-winged warbler made its impromptu entrance to the UK in February 1989 and the county sighting is still the only known one to have taken place in Europe.

The scene in Tesco's car park in Larkfield back in the 80s
The scene in Tesco's car park in Larkfield back in the 80s

In ‘I Think I Can See Where You’re Going Wrong’, featuring Guardian readers’ comments, edited by Marc Burrows, one recounts the event, and his comments are published on the cover.

He said: “The only time I told someone there was anything better than sex, it was having seen Britain’s first and so far, only, golden-winged warbler (a tiny jewel of an American bird) near Tesco’s car park on February 14, 1989. The adrenalin rush was phenomenal.”

The sighting was made by Paul Doherty, of New Hythe. Once word spread coachloads of bird enthusiasts travelled to the car park from all over the country. It made front page news of the Kent Messenger back in the 80s.

Long lenses were in order to catch a snap of the elusive bird
Long lenses were in order to catch a snap of the elusive bird

The tiny songbird, which weighs around 9 grams, usually spends its winters in the forests of Venezuela or Columbia.

Mr Doherty, then 33, said at the time: “It suddenly flew out from a hedge.”

Experts put its arrival this side of the Atlantic down to being blown off course while migrating.

The event is still well remembered. Jean Howland of the Maidstone branch of the RSPB, said: “I remember that everybody was jumping up and down. It was so rare it turning up there.”

The book is published by Faber and Faber. For more details visit www.faber.co.uk

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