Wednesday, 14 December 2016

NOT a Dusky Thrush

The photograph is not the bird I travelled a second time for nearly two hours through the madness of Stockport and Hazel Grove stop-start traffic jams to see - it's a Fieldfare, one of our regular winter thrushes. On my first visit to the picturesque little village of Beeley on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire I didn't see the target bird, but with better light today, I was more hopeful.

Normally I'd be pleased with a shot like this, but not today.  Like many others I'd gone to Beeley today to see a rare bird called the Dusky Thrush which has only been reported on these shores on 12 previous occasions. In birding jargon it's known as a Mega - i.e. very rarely seen, if ever.  And so, as you can imagine, I was very keen to see it as it had been reported frequently since first being sighted a week or so ago.

The bird comes from it breeding grounds in Siberia and has been blown off course by the strong autumn gales we've had this year. It's probably been around for a lot longer, but no-one had identified it until now.  A local birder who lives in the village took a photo of it from her back garden and realised it was a bit different to our normal Thrushes and especially Redwings. She had it identified by an expert and then the mad rush started.

People have been coming from all over the country to see this bird, and even some from abroad, it's that rare, and today it was supposed to be my turn.  The bird had been showing well feeding on apples in a small orchard in the village, next to a charity centre known as Duke's Barn. It had also been seen in other fields feeding on the ground as well as other apple trees. And therein lay the problem - where to go?

I started by joining birders looking over a broken drystone wall (I do hope birders didn't do that) in to a field with fallen apples beneath a tree. This is where I took the Fieldfare photograph above.  It would have been perfect for the distance and light if the target bird had been present, but it wasn't.  Instead there were plenty of Redwings, Blackbirds, Robins and Fieldfares all feeding on the falling bounty. Suddenly, someone had a phone call saying that the bird the bird had been seen in the top field behind the village - the crowd rapidly dispersed!

However it was a false alarm, as half way to the field a second phone call said that it was just a Redwing. I decided to keep on going anyway. I spent a good hour or more looking over a wall at a Hawthorn hedge where the bird had been seen earlier in the afternoon, but to no avail.  I later decided to go and spend some time in the Duke's Barn orchard where another crowd of photographers and birders were staring over a wall at some fallen apples, but that was all.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker did put in an appearance at the top of a conifer tree as well as some Chaffinches and Tits, but not much else.

The light was fading fast and so dejected I returned to my car in the early evening gloom. I'll have to go back I thought.

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