A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

MEGA!! Dusky Thrush at Beeley, Derbyshire!

“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings” – an extremely fitting phrase as the autumn that just keeps on giving conjured up yet another outstanding bird to finish 2016 off nicely, this time in the form of a fine first winter male Dusky Thrush frequenting the gardens and orchards in the rural village of Beeley in Derbyshire. 
Dusky Thrush, Beeley, Derbyshire
With news breaking late on the Sunday evening, but with the exact location remaining mysteriously cryptic, it was all systems go come Monday morning as news filtered through that the mega thrush was still present and precise site details were revealed to those eager to make the visit in to Derbyshire. Thankfully being able to take the rest of the day off work (I didn’t fancy an agonising week ahead being bombarded with envy-inducing photos over social media) we were soon well on our way through the Peak District, navigating the winding roads and patches of ice to reach our destination just before lunchtime, when we promptly met a large crowd of birders blocking the road and eagerly looking around the gardens. 

With the Dusky Thrush mostly favouring the playground and orchard of Dukes Barn Outdoor Activity Centre, it soon transpired that this was one extremely mobile thrush, commuting between several sites in the area and having also taken a liking to a stand of Hawthorn bushes directly behind the village playing field. Having disappeared from view 10 minutes before arriving, the chase was now on!
Beeley, Derbyshire
The stand of Hawthorns by the playing field the Dusky Thrush took a liking to
Thankfully, we didn’t have long to wait, as a cry from a little further down the road that the Dusky Thrush was in view saw the whole crowd stampede to the right, clamouring for viewing space on the narrow lanes while tripods, hats and bodies obscured the view for those unlucky enough to find themselves at the back of the pack.

Sure enough, there was indeed a bird perched high up in one of the Hawthorns, but the none-abating mist and poor, dull light rendered it just a dark shape nestled amongst the twigs – indistinguishable as the target bird and frustratingly flitting down on to the ground and out of sight. A tantalising glimpse but most definitely not good enough when a 13th for Britain lifer of a mega thrush is on the line! 

Thankfully, around 10 minutes later and to the relief of those around, I managed to re-find our quarry, once again perched in the same Hawthorn tree and this time easily distinguishable from the associating Redwings by the rounded black spots on the breast and flanks, prominent white throat patch, bold supercilium and lack of rusty red on the flanks that the Redwings are famous for. 
Dusky Thrush, Beeley, Derbyshire
The Dusky Thrush remained frustratingly distant for most of the day!
Flying a tad closer before once again disappearing off over the rooftops, our views were yet again limited to a minute at most, and with no further sign or reappearance for the next hour and a half, we were in for a long, cold wait in an attempt to get better views of what, in good light, is a truly stunning bird.

Eventually, the wish of the swelling crowd was granted as the Dusky Thrush finally gave itself up in the grounds of Dukes Barn late in the afternoon, perching in the small orchard trees and feeding on apples for a prolonged period - allowing all those present to get a good look at this eastern mega. 
Dusky Thrush, Beeley, Derbyshire
Dusky Thrush, Beeley, Derbyshire
After a while the Dusky Thrush once more displayed its flighty nature, disappearing off through the trees and out of sight. I was pretty certain as to where it was heading, and sure enough, as just 3 of us climbed the small hill of the playing field to take a look at the row of Hawthorns everyone had been staring at an hour earlier, we were met with the first winter male hopping around on the grass in front of us, parading around proudly and displaying the fine speckled black breast band and dusky tones. These were the views I’d been after! 
Dusky Thrush, Beeley, Derbyshire
With the crowds cottoning on and with more and more people arriving, the Dusky Thrush soon flew in to the adjacent trees, once again offering a great comparison with the Redwings and Song Thrushes despite the now extremely poor and rapidly fading light.

The Derbyshire Dusky Thrush represents just the 13th record for Britain, hot on the heels of a male photographed on St Marys, Scilly, back in October and just 3 years after the well-twitched (if not somewhat dubious in purity!) Margate bird of May 2013, before which there had been a lengthy gap of 23 years between records! With Margate being too far to twitch at the time and thinking it may have been a regrettable blocker for some time yet, I was especially glad that another bite at the Dusky Thrush cherry had come around so soon, an additional bonus at being just over an hour away from home!

Despite the originally poor views and freezing conditions, the last views of the Dusky Thrush on the grass in front of the wall saved the twitch, and having gripped back this mega thrush we headed home happy! Whether this is the "fat lady’s last song" so to speak remains to be seen however, and judging by how the year has gone so far, there may well be one last throw of the dice in the birding world during the closing weeks of 2016 yet. Here’s hoping! 

Dusky Thrush Map
Dusky Thrush Map!
For those wanting to visit, parking is at Dukes Barn off School Lane (DE4 2NU) for a small donation fee of £3. The Dusky Thrush is extremely mobile and the several spots it seems to favour are highlighted in purple on the map. The best locations to try and spot it are the row of Hawthorn trees as viewed from the small playing field off Chapel Hill, and the apple trees in the orchard as viewed from the Dukes Barn car park.

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