Saturday, 18 May 2013

Margate - twinned with Beidaihe

Britain's first-ever twitchable Dusky Thrush - debate has already started about whether there is any Naumann's Thrush influence in the plumage (the two species, formerly treated as one, hybridise in areas of range overlap).
There’s a good chance that many of Britain’s keener birders awoke oblivious to the big news of the day. While some slumbered in their pits, others who had stayed up a little later last night would have caught the late-breaking story from BirdGuides – of a female Dusky Thrush at Margate Cemetery, Kent, for its third day. You were either in Thanet at dawn and scoring, or panicking that the bird might depart too soon …

There’ll be more to come on this find of the year – not least the discussion on hybrids (with Naumann’s Thrush), which we’ll cover in the next issue of Birdwatch. The fact that news was released after 11 pm three days late appears to be due not to suppression, but down to the fact that the bird was initially believed to be a Redwing and only belatedly reidentified from a photo published on a local birder’s blog.

Just one section of the crowd present at lunchtime today in Margate Cemetery.
I had early morning commitments, not least a photography session with promising young patch birder Henry Wyn-Jones in Alexandra Park, but afterwards I rescheduled another diary date (sorry Roy) and headed on down to Margate to join the madding crowd. The bird had gone into cover by the time Andrew, Shiny and I got there, but we were among familiar faces and Tony Brown quickly indicated the area it was last seen. After a few minutes of scanning, I picked up a pale creamy-white supercilium in among the leaves, though the rest of the bird was pretty obscured in the foliage. Eventually it moved out and about and views became easier of this rare Asian stray – just the ninth British record, and the first twitchable individual bird. 

After more looks as this understated but attractive thrush as it moved around the south-west corner of the site, we decamped back to the car and London – a little more than four hours door-to-door (and 43 years to get it onto my Western Palearctic list).

Watch my short video of the bird on YouTube.


  1. Even given the rarity of the bird, does it excuse the behaviour of a few birders who showed no respect for the location they were in?
    Within your second photo, there is a guy actually sitting on someone's grave.
    While I was there the vast majority of birders behaved as you would expect, a few unfortunately did not.

  2. I agree, Jim - some people seemed to forget where they were, and although most were careful, it was a shame to see graves being unthinkingly walked over or sat on. The bird appears to have gone today, so at least there will be no further disturbance.

  3. Such a shame that the news was put out so late on Friday night at just past 11pm. Had it been earlier then I suspect more people would have been able to enjoy through resheduling appointments; certainly this was the feeling from the many people that I spoke to on Sunday.

  4. I don't normally allow anonymous comments, but will answer this one by saying that BirdGuides didn't receive information about the bird until late on the Friday evening, and put out news as soon as it had been checked out. Unlike many other notable rarities, at least this one stayed until the Saturday rather than departing overnight!



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