Well I have never got round to writing this one up, so now as we start 2017 I thought I had better do it!
We had a rather leisurely day after the trip to darkest Wales on Saturday the 3rd December and on switching on twitter in the late afternoon one of the first tweets that came in was a picture of a Dusky Thrush in Derbyshire! This had been posted by Rachael Jones on a UK Bird ID page on Facebook. Panic… Problem was we didn’t know where in Derbyshire it had been taken. Give her her due she was badgered by folk and still kept her cool and eventually organised access, the details of which were to be announced at 10am the following day. Late evening the pager reported the bird was in Beeley village itself, but we decided to obey the request to wait till 10am before going, so details could be fixed up. However events took over as they are wont to do and some birders went along to the village early doors and re-found the bird. We didn’t read anything till just before 10am so were unaware of this turn of events until we checked our messages, we set off late therefore and took the roads over the backs from here towards Beeley to go down to the village from via the moor. The bird was coming on the pager regularly as we traveled the approximate 20 miles north, but as we reached the heather tops we received the message it had flown off east.
Now we knew the road down from the moor to the village had been closed in the day for a while, so work could be done, but thought it would now be open. Wrong! We reached the road closed signs and had to turn round and go back across the moor to the Rowsley road. We dropped off the moor towards a frosty Beeley, I was not a happy camper as there had been no news since the bird had flown off. The pager had also informed us we could park at a charity called Dukes Barn in the village for a donation, it was here that the orchard was which the bird had been in. We pulled up finding lots of cars in the village unsurprisingly, but amazingly there was parking in the small car park behind the centre still! Here we ran into a couple of familiar faces who happily told us the bird had been back but had gone again. Phew, we still had a chance! On getting out of the car we found the bucket for donations and joined a medium sized crowed festooning the adventure playground equipment overlooking the orchard. The crowd were all looking over a wall into the orchard where a couple of Blackbirds were flitting around. We could also see birders on the road opposite. A long nervous and cold while passed during which the charity brilliantly offered us Bacon Butties and chips for a couple of quid! Then suddenly there was the bird in one of the apple trees. A little cracker, albeit a fairly dull Dusky Thrush it was very well marked on the breast and flanks. It did however disappear as soon as it arrived after causing a bit of a scrum. Shortly after we saw movement on the road on the other side of the orchard.
It seems to have lost some feathers at the top of the rump?
We left the adventure playground and walked round and were able to see the bird perched up in a tree in another garden just as our intrepid Derbyshire expat Mark Pass arrived to add it onto his amazing year list… but the light was awful. There followed some time of frustration as I tried to see it in several spots as it moved around the village whilst Paul stayed at the orchard. I carried one of our radios and he had the other and reported seeing it twice more briefly!
However he finally called us up and said it was showing well and the gathered crowd swept up its tripods and hurried back towards the adventure equipment! The now very large crowed utilised all the play equipment they could in order to glimpse the bird in the hedge line and tall ash trees over the field, before it finally flew into a close tree where it sat partly obscured for a few minutes before eventually dropping back into the orchard where it showed very well eating apples in the long frosty grass.
Now that is some bird to see in Derbyshire, perhaps not a lifer but a first for the county! It is still a brilliantly rare bird in the UK too, despite there being one or two birds in the last few years (only the Margate bird was twitchable though).
The bird was brighter than the Margate bird but its not a vast difference, the wings (tertials and secondaries) and rump were toned rufous, the face was strongly marked but the mantle has no really strong dark centres. I suspect the cumulative effect of all this is to mean its a female.
Bit of my video.