On 14th November 1982, E. Grace was leading an RSPB field meeting at Nanquidno, near St Just-in-Penwith, Cornwall. At about 14.00 GMT, one of the ladies in the group drew his attention to an unusual thrush, which was dark grey with a white throat and supercilium, greyish breast-band and white wingbars. Consultation of field guides did not help; the nearest thrush to it seemed to be Dusky Thrush Turdus naumanni, but several features did not fit. Despite further searches by local birdwatchers, it was not seen again until the morning of 17th, when it was relocated by the late Bernard King, and later, independently, by GCH, SCH (who obtained a series of photographs, Brit. Birds 76: plates 37-39; 83: 109-111) and LPW. The possibilities of Siberian Thrush Zoothera sibirica or an escaped Aztec Thrush Z. pinicola (a Mexican species) were then considered, but the white throat, upper breast and prominent wingbars were inexplicable. On the evening of 18th, SCH telephoned SCM and described the bird. It sounded as if it was some weird escape, possibly a peculiar plumage stage of Pied Ground Thrush Z wardii (an Indian species). The following morning saw a handful of us gathered at the spot; when the bird appeared, its banded underwing certainly suggested a species of Zoothera, but it was clearly none of the above possibilities, and we were all totally perplexed. Returning home and looking at the literature, it suddenly dawned on SCM that the markings fitted Varied Thrush Z. naevia perfectly, and that, if the latter's orange areas were whitish, then that was the Nanquidno bird. Luckily, the markings were distinctive enough to show that no other thrush could possibly fit: it was indeed an aberrantly coloured Varied Thrush.  

Issue 5
Start Page: 
Williams, L. P
Hearl, G. C
Display Image: 

Stay at the forefront of British birding by taking out a subscription to British Birds.

Subscribe Now