Every naturalist dreams of being first to see scarce wildlife on their local patch whether it is a bird, butterfly or animal. It may even be the first of its type seen in the country, county or borough and whichever it is will guarantee the finder a certain notoriety.

So the name Ian Stewart has gone down in Bexley birding history for finding a small brown bird which should have been in Asia rather than on a well-trodden suburban footpath.

Wild Things: Give the gift of knowledge

When Ian left his Sidcup home on December 14, he already carried with him a sizeable reputation for locating scarce birds on regular walks through the streets, parks, woods, playing fields and open spaces of Bexley Borough.

He once told me the number of successive days he had been out birding. I don’t recall the exact figure but it was well over 3,000. When I first met him he toted neither binoculars nor telescope, as his keen eyesight and acute hearing told him all he needed to know.

Yet he could scarcely have imagined the pre-Christmas treat in store as he reached a patch of open grassland and scrub sandwiched between the River Cray and the Gravesend to London rail line.

News Shopper: Little bunting Photo: Donna ZimmerLittle bunting Photo: Donna Zimmer

News Shopper: Little Bunting Photo: Donna Zimmer

On the footpath ahead he spotted a little bunting, a bird which usually winters in China or India. This was the first time a little bunting had been sighted in Bexley and only the 13th London area record, the last believed to be at Walthamstow reservoir in 2018.

Ian alerted others. Next day I was among a dozen people admiring the bird and as I left more birdfers arrived from all around London. Many thanked Ian for finding it.

Wild Things: An insight into our elusive wildlife

He rates this sighting as his best ever in Bexley, despite locating such scarce birds as raven, ring ouzel, bearded tit, wryneck, hen harrier, dotterel and logging an ortolan bunting flying over his house on night migration.

This super sighting is a reward for Ian’s dedication, travelling miles daily whatever the weather, locating the birds and sharing information. He logs butterflies and dragonflies too.

Every area needs an Ian Stewart. Perhaps yours already has one. When you ask what's about, don’t forget to offer your thanks.