Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Saturday 20th May - Margate Cemetery, Kent

There are two certainties in life. Firstly, if you go to bed early, then you get up early. On the otherhand, if you go to bed late, then you get up late.

I've always been an early riser, and always like to get down to Westport before the heaving masses, and I usually arrive at just after 06:00hrs, even on weekends. Its the only way to chance upon a wader, if one is present, before it gets flushed.

This Saturday, we planned a day in Staffs, hoping that the good spell of birds found during the week would continue. We arranged to meet CJW at Westport at 06:30hrs. I have to admit that I did get up slightly earlier than usual, and at 05:30hrs, I checked my phone for any messages that had come through after I had gone to bed. I was in for quite a shock.

Its not everyday that a  DUSKY THRUSH is found, but one on the mainland, and present for three days was quite a surprise. I briefly did a bit of research behind the story, and tried to phone GAS and CJW to get away as soon as possible. GAS was already up, but it took CJW until 06:05hrs to ring me back. In the meantime, PLo had rang me to say the DUSKY THRUSH was already showing again. I offered him a lift as unfortunately we had a spare seat in the car due to PJ still being in Turkey. I had my second shock of the day when I found out PLo was already in Kent. I realised that some people stay up later than me, and had obviously gone down in the early hours while the rest of the Clayheads were snoozing away!

We managed to leave Stoke at about 06:20hrs, and we had an easy journey down to Kent with no hold ups en route. It was strange to be travelling down with news coming through all the time and not being on site at first light like we normally do. We arrived in Margate (like a poorman's run down Blackpool with a huge set of 1960's high rise flats on the front. Last time I saw flats like these were in Hungary!).

We had a small detour around Margate due to being given the wrong postcode, but we soon found the cemetery and a street full of parked cars. The crowd was easy to find too, but the 1w female Dusky Thrush was sitting deep inside a tree when we arrived, and it took us an eternity to find it in our scope. The boys around us though we very kind in letting us look through their scopes.

It did move occasionally, showing in full view, but then again it disappeared for quite lengthy spells. The problem was that with the crowd surrounding the tree, the Dusky Thrush couldn't drop down to feed. Eventually, we did have some good views, although we were looking through branches again, hence the greenish hue on all the photo's. We also had several Ring-necked Parakeets flying overhead aswell.

1w female Dusky Thrush at Margate Kent. The first twitchable one since 1959.

We were extremely satisfied with how the morning had gone and on the way out we paid a visit to the toilets near the entrance. Now, its not very often that you get a photo of the inside of a toilet on a Clayhead blog, but there's always a first for everything. Way down in deepest darkest Kent, in a toilet block in a cemetery, I found......

.........a toilet manufactured by Twyfords at Cliffe Vale - the old factory is visible from my house! Sorry for the quality of the photo but I wasn't going to flash in there was I.  

Its recently been said that most twitchers just stand and watch one bird and then drive home again. Thats not true on a Clayhead twitch and we always make the most of our day in whatever area we visit. There were a few birds still to see along the North Kent coast. First stop was at Reculver just along the coast. The sun was out now and there were even sunbathers out by the Reculver Towers. We were soon watching a female Montagu's Harrier quartering over one of the fields. There was also a RED-BACKED SHRIKE in the area, but we were told it was a two mile walk, and so we gave it a miss.

The final bird of the day was the Cattle Egret at Shorne Marshes. We soon found Shorne Marshes on the map and armed with our sat nav we set off. All was going well until we arrived at a railway line with a crossing. We parked up, heard a Nightingale singing but then found the gate we needed to walk through had been welded shut! We consulted our maps again, tried and failed to access the RSPB website but eventually decided to try Canal Road which looked as though it also went onto Shorne Marshes. In the end, we walked about two miles along a cycle way and found the Cattle Egret feeding with cattle. As for it being an RSPB site, we didn't see a single RSPB sign anywhere until we got back on the dual carriageway to go home.

Chris enjoyed his day so much in North Kent, I asked him how many ice-creams he'd eaten..

So having seen quite a decent selection of birds in Kent, we headed for home. We'd read a few mumblings on Twitter whilst in the cemetery about the Dusky Thush being a possible hybrid, and it did take a small bit of gloss off the day. Once home, trial by Birdforum started, with various birders casting doubt over the purity of the thrush. You try not to read them or worry about them, but when Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers starts asking questions, then you start sweating. However, during Sunday afternoon, we finally received the news that made us go "Duskytastic"