Saturday, 18 May 2013
Dusky Thrush at Margate Cemetery, Kent
On Sunday, 18th May, again not feeling well, the sickness bug I had contracted now replaced by toothache which had started after ironically visiting the Dentist for a check-up. I rested up, being in some pain, at home this morning. I received a very welcome call late lunchtime from John H and feeling much better, agreed to take a seat offered with both him and Tony Str who wanted to twitch the Dusky Thrush in Margate, Kent. They arrived at 1.30pm and 3 and a half hours later we drove into the seaside town of Margate. Using John's smartphone (or maybe not so smartphone on this occasion?) we got lost several times (which is unusual because John is the best map reader I know, he was let down by the technology) and it took us half an hour to find the cemetery. On one nearby road we heard the familiar "Kee-Kee-Kee" of a group of 8 and then a single Ring- necked Parakeets flying over the road and over our heads. We eventually found the ceremony St. John's Cemetery and parked right at the entrance, walked to a chapel, where we saw a Red Fox walk nonchalantly across the path totally unconcerned by our presence! Eventually we saw a few birders and we turned right and joined them looking into a collection of well scattered medium sized trees. It had been seen a few minutes ago. We looked and after several minutes I saw a movement in a tree and Alistair a chap I knew a few years ago spotted it in a tree. It, the magnificent 1st winter female Dusky Thrush was perched 10 feet up in a tree looking directly up from a slanting gravestone. Only problem was the bird's head was obscured by a branch. Kneeling down, I could just about see the lower half of the head and the beady black eye and part of the yellow/ black bill. A large Thrush, appearing to be slightly bigger than Fieldfare, it was grey on the head with thick white supercilia white lower eye crescent, a thick black malar stripe extending onto the breast, thick blackish notches on the sides of the breast becoming thinner at the middle of breast forming a "necklace" with more brownish thick notches on the flanks, it had a grey brown back and on one occasion I noticed a more distinct rufus- brown tail, but in other light conditions it looked greyer brown! These browner features with a warm brown tone on the shoulder and some warmer tones on the breast and especially the colouring of the tail could be well within the range of variation for a Dusky Thrush or may indicate this bird could be an integrade (?) between Dusky Thrush and Naumann's Thrush, which if the latter assumption proves correct will disappoint many birders and twitchers who twitched this bird. Nevertheless, she was a smart bird, anyway! Finally, back to the initial sighting, all of the head was seen as it first stretched up and then down before it flew across to the middle of the tree by the trunk by the main path. I could see it through the foliage and it jumped onto a closer branch (see middle picture with this post) before briefly alighting on the ground by a gravestone, before flying left again and into a bigger tree viewable on the left hand edge. From here it eventually flew to a tree by the crossroads, where it was seen perched near the very top right hand edge of the tree. From here it again flew to the western edge of the Cemetery where it was seen perched behind some foliage on the left side of the tree. She then flew to a tree just in front of me and I took full advantage taking several shots of it showing brilliantly, albeit behind a branch or too, I really should get Photoshop to clone these out! It stayed here for a couple of minutes before eventually flying right. Walking back groups of 2, 3 and 4 Ring- necked Parakeets seen and heard flying overhead. A Mistle Thrush was also heard rattling but sadly not seen.