Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A Dusky Discovery

Sunday 4th December 2016

The day started with a long dog walk along the Main Drain and across the fields. As usual, Boris found a way of achieving maximum dirtiness while Arthur just mooched around finding interesting smells.
There are now 8 Whooper Swans by Coy Bridge and Mute Swan numbers are up to 63.
When we returned, I put in another shift digging the pond, beginning to work out where the banks will go and planning an overflow into a boggy area. The pond will be fed by rainwater diverted from the stable roof.
A late lunch found me trying one of Sue's new jams, Elderflower Champagne and Whitecurrant - very nice.

My plan for Monday was to finally drive over to South Wales to see the Masked Wagtail, but that all began to change early evening as details came through of a photo posted onto a Facebook group asking for an identification.

The first photo of the bird
to be posted on the internet
There were three photos, a blackbird, a couple of starlings and a dusky thrush.


Details of the site were not to be released until next morning but it didn't take a lot of detective work to figure out that the photo was quite probably taken in an orchard in Beeley on the edge of the Peak District.
Dusky Thrushes have been as rare as hen's teeth for many years, but I was lucky enough to catch up with one in Kent a few years back.

Chances of a Dusky Thrush sticking around are difficult to assess. Instinct told me it was unlikely to be seen the next morning. But Dusky Thrushes are almost mythical and I was keen to see it. I hatched a plan which would give me a good night's sleep and arrive me on site at about ten in the morning, the time that the precise location was likely to be released.
My insurance policy was to do a little Christmas shopping at Peak Shopping Village. That way it wouldn't be a completely wasted journey and if the bird was found I would be less than two miles away.

I set the alarm for half six and went to bed.

Monday 5th December 2016
I met up with Neil in Holbeach Tesco car park and from there we headed westwards. He was happy with the Christmas shopping plan.
But at 8.38am we received news that the bird was still there, though only seen briefly. We continued into a distinctly frosty and foggy landscape and at just past ten in the morning we were on a minor road traversing Beeley Moor. There wasn't much news on the bird. From what we could tell it had been seen briefly a couple of times.
Two minutes before our predicted arrival time we came across a Road Closed sign with absolutely no way through. We had to turn around and drive right back across the moor. Eventually we reached the small village of Beeley and found the first available parking place. It was a short walk to where the bird had been showing and as we climbed the hill there were people coming away from the bird telling us it was still on show.
We hadn't even realised it was showing, otherwise we would have tried to park closer. As it was, by the time we had walked up the hill to the church the bird had flown off. Thrushes have the annoying habit of picking up with other thrush species and disappearing off.
After another half an hour there had been no further sightings and I was starting to think about Christmas shopping at Peak Shopping Village. After all, we wouldn't be far away if the bird turned up again.
I'm not really being serious. I am much more determined than that. I headed off up a track to search for where the bird might be feeding, but it wasn't long before my phone started ringing. The bird was being watched in the orchard! (Access had by now been granted).

I ran back and it wasn't too long before I was enjoying good, if fairly brief views of the bird. There were maybe a hundred birders present at this point. The villagers of Beeley were slightly bemused by us, but we were among the first wave of birders and there had been no time for any bad feelings to set in yet.
The charity who owned the land from which the bird was viewable were fantastic. They laid on toilet facilities, parking and seemed genuinely happy to witness our eccentric passion. I hope that everybody contributed generously, though twitchers are astonishingly tight when it comes to putting their hands in their pockets. When approached with a collection bucket, somebody in front of us, despite the fact he was stood on somebody else's land by their kind permission, dared ask if it was compulsory to donate! We made sure he felt our eyes burning into the back of his head and hopefully heard our disapproving whispers.
Neil gripped me off with a bacon roll which they had laid on, but it wasn't long before chips appeared too and more bacon rolls. There was coffee and tea too.
This was quite some twitch.

The bird gave us the run around for the next couple of hours but we managed several sightings, though none longer than a minute. I recognised the lady who had originally posted the photo on the internet. She was finding it all rather surreal.

Neil and I gave it till one o'clock before heading back. We both had other halves to get back to and we didn't feel we would get much better views of the bird. Besides, more and more birders were starting to arrive and we quite wanted to get out of the place before it became too hectic.

And finally... that wonderful charity who have been so friendly and patient is dukesbarn. Their website is Donations can be made via links on the website.

ed - the bird is still present well over a week later. It has now been seen by thousands of birders. The villagers even arranged an out-of-village car park over the weekend, with a free shuttle bus laid on. Amazing stuff!

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