Birdwatchers from near and far were heading for the Hebrides yesterday after the first Scottish sighting of a Great Spotted Cuckoo in 60 years.

Tourist Rudolph Hummel saw the rare visitor fly past while walking up from the beach at the  north end of Iona on Sunday and managed to capture a photo of the bird in flight.

He contacted Argyll Bird Recorder Jim Dickson who verified the sighting
on Tuesday, when he located and photographed the cuckoo on the island.

As word spread, keen birdwatchers began making plans to get to the Inner Hebridean island to get a glimpse of the cuckoo, which was last recorded in Scotland in Orkney in 1959.

Mr Dickson said yesterday: “There were guys from Fife and from Lothian leaving at three o’clock this morning to get across to Iona.”

Keen birdwatchers have a list of what bird species they have seen and Mr Dickson, who has witnessed 290 of Argyll’s 350 recorded species, said: “Unless they were alive in 1959 and in  Orkney, no-one in Scotland will have this on their list.”

Slightly larger than the Common Cuckoo, that is normally found in the UK, the great Spottted Cuckoo, is easily identifiable by the white spots on the upper part of its body and wings.

It normally migrates after wintering in Africa to spend its summers in the Mediterranean around Spain, Portugal, parts of Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Mr Dickson said of the Iona visitor: “It is a vagrant, it’s well out of its normal range but if you get strong southerly winds, which we had a week ago, birds can be blown off course. 

“It was probably born last summer and it’s probably down to the southerly winds that it is here, although we don’t know for certain.”

Mr Dickson travelled to Oba from his home in Mid Argyll, took the ferry to Mull, travelled an hour by bus to Fionnphort, to catch the ferry to Iona, before walking a mile to the north of the island to track down the bird.

He said: “I marched up the island for about a mile, I veered round the youth hostel and it took five seconds to find, it was definitely worth it.”

He said the bird, which is feeding on caterpillars, had been sighted again yesterday.

Mr Hummel, 62, an experienced birdwatcher from Italy, visited Iona while on holiday on Mull. 

He said: “I was exploring the area for 10 days and I did a lot of photography. I am always prepared for if I see something and I saw this bird flying by and I managed, in a six second fly-by, to get some photos of it. It was pretty exciting.

“I have worked on the Swiss Atlas of Breeding Birds for four years so I know quite a lot about birds and I knew I was on to something very important and got in touch with the bird recorder.

“It is a really beautiful bird.”