How the Dusky Thrush changed my view on twitching

I have never been a huge fan of ‘twitching.’ I would call myself more a ‘birder’ than a ‘twitcher.’ Standing with hundreds of other people in one spot in often cold or even drizzly weather has just never really appealed to me. However, an experience in early December 2016 completely changed my view on it.

My husband told me of a rare bird that had been seen at Duke’s Barn activity centre in Beeley, Derbyshire. The dusky thrush, which normally breeds in Siberia, was blown off course and into Britain by strong, easterly winds. There have only been 12 records of this bird in Britain making it a ‘mega rare’ bird to see.

That day is one I will never forget. We arrived at Chatsworth House car park early one Saturday morning in December where a shuttle bus was awaiting keen twitchers. The village of Beeley had been inundated with almost 1,000 twitchers from all over the country; the shuttle bus was organised to relieve the strain on local villagers.

The atmosphere was amazing. I was completely in awe of the fact that myself and all of these people had one thing in common, to see one rare bird in the barn’s orchard. Everyone was waiting in complete anticipation. One minute everyone was waiting by the orchard, then there were whispers it had been seen in the field. Unsure of what to do, I waited by the orchard with only a few other twitchers, camera in hand, whilst my husband John and about a hundred other twitchers headed to the field. Only moments later it appeared in the orchard. I rang my husband, before getting a record shot of this blackbird sized bird who was completely oblivious to the fact that everyone was there to see her. The call to my husband was brief ‘come back quick,’ I said before hanging up. That is all John needed to hear. He headed back followed by the hundred of other twitchers who had over- heard the brief telephone conversation.

That day has forever changed my view on twitching. The arrival of one bird had brought twitchers from all over the country to this sleepy village in Debyshire,  a shuttle bus was organised and food and drink was sold to raise money for the charity that organises outdoor activities for disabled children. One bird brought thousands of like-minded people together during that week in early December and has now left a lasting legacy.

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