Birdwatch: Keep cameras ready for season’s return of rare vagrants

A female black-throated thrush. Picture: Dave Mansell
A female black-throated thrush. Picture: Dave Mansell
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This autumn saw a bumper crop of berries in the countryside but at the turn of the year even these ample supplies dwindle and more birds visit the feeders in our gardens for a quick meal.

It is now that rarities can turn up, particularly among flocks of redwings and fieldfares, and transform quiet communities.

Thousands of birdwatchers have visited the Derbyshire village of Beeley near Bakewell this month after the chance discovery of a dusky thrush from central Asia, only the 14th seen in this country.

Local resident Rachel Jones was photographing birds from her bedroom window which overlooks the Dukes Barn Activity Centre including one which she thought might be a mistle thrush.

She posted her photos on the UK Bird Identification Forum on Facebook and the bird was immediately identified as a dusky thrush, probably a female, which stayed in the area giving hundreds of birdwatchers the chance to see it and donate more than £1,000 for the activity centre.

There was a similar chance encounter the previous month when Ross Moore from Sheffield was visiting his parents in Prudhoe, Northumberland and went for a walk with his father in the nearby Bolam Country Park when they saw an unusual looking thrush which Ross photographed and which was later identified as an eyebrowed thrush, another very rare vagrant to this country from the taiga forests of Siberia.

It was not seen again but the bird was also identified because its photograph was shared on the UK Bird Identification Forum.

Another chance identification came in the village of Newholme near Whitby in January 2010 when a householder in Mires Road was photographing the birders visiting his feeders. He posted some images assuming they were of fieldfares but one turned out to be a female black-throated thrush which subsequently showed well to visiting birders, encouraged by supplies of apples and mealworms put out by locals.

Last October a constant flow of easterlies brought a stream of rare vagrants from Russia, not least an unprecedented number of Siberian accentors including two seen in Yorkshire. One lingered on a disused car park at Easington.

It is highly likely some of these vagrants will soon be coming in to gardens in search of food so it is worth keeping a camera handy on the kitchen windowsill to photograph any unusual visitors to the bird table.

Michael Flowers is now taking bookings for his ten-week East Yorkshire winter birdwatching course starting on January 10. Winter visitors to look out for include waxwings, hawfinches, long-eared owls, rough-legged buzzards and hen harriers.

There are most vacancies on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Anyone who is interested in booking a place or who would like more information can contact Michael by emailing or by calling 07946 625688.