Unusual visitor delights wildlife watchers.

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A black swan has been spotted on the River Taw in Barnstaple.

Reader Beverly Martin photographed the bird, native to Australia, with a herd of mute swans alongside the rugby club on Thursday morning.

Beverly, who regularly takes pictures of swans on the Taw, said the bird was not a ‘common sight’ and wondered if it had been ‘blown off course’ from Dawlish, which is famously home to a number of black swans.

She said: “It’s not a regular visitor – I’m always taking photos of the swans on the Taw and I’ve never seen it, nor have any of the regular dog walkers, runners or a couple of fishermen who were there today.

“Dawlish does have a flock of black swans so perhaps the waterfowl warden at Dawlish Town Council could do a ‘head count to see if one is missing.

“I couldn’t see if it was tagged but I guess it would be.”

This is not the first sighting of a black swan on North Devon’s estuaries. In August 2007, the Gazette reported that a similar bird had been spotted on the River Torridge in Bideford.

Barnstaple wildlife expert Trevor Beer said he had been made aware of the recent visitor on the Taw.

“It’s not been here very long – maybe a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Black swans do appear on the river once in a while and they have been seen on the Torridge during the last three-or-four years.

“They are smaller than the white swans and, most likely, it would have escaped from someone’s collection.

“The birds sometimes move out from larger groups in the West Country; it may hang around with the mute swans or may disappear again,” he added.

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