Home » Goater’s Blog: In Scotland; oh no, Thrushes.

Goater’s Blog: In Scotland; oh no, Thrushes.

I’ve been based at our Scottish office since mid-summer and work has taken on a different ‘feel’.  Less of the urban fringe and more of the  hill and bog would sum it up pretty well.  There are other differences too, with the changing season; Pink-footed Geese, newly arrived from Iceland and so high above the Forth as to be almost invisible, though their emotive calls reached my ears with ease.  Wintering thrushes also; Redwings first, followed by Fieldfares have been passing in vast numbers along the same valley.

White's Thrush

White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea

And talking of thrushes, I feel sick with, I’m not sure what. Envy? Lust? Disappointment? Self-doubt?  This because White’s Thrush is still not on my British list, and it could have been, perhaps, if I had been just a bit more zealous as a birder.  And maybe willing to trespass.

This Zoothera thrush, an Asiatic skulker of great rarity and beauty, was found on St Agnes two weeks before my annual October long weekend on the Scillies with old mate Andy Clements, CEO of the BTO, and Nick Moran, Bird Track organiser with the same organisation.  The chances of it staying for us were slim, and indeed it was only around for two or three days.

Our time came and we slogged over most of the islands in search of vagrant birds, and found a few but nothing to compare with the elusive thrush, for which we expended little effort, since it had clearly gone.  Tresco yielded a Sora – an ultra rare rail from North America. (How could it fly the Atlantic on those stubby wings?)  The Parsonage area of St Agnes gave us Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler and a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling (known accurately as a ‘fawn yawn’ in birding circles because it is SO dull compared with an adult).

Home on the 22nd and, dammit, by the 25th there was White’s Thrush being recorded on St Agnes again.  It’s still there as I write this, often skulking, out of general view in private gardens, but sometimes available on the Parsonage lawn!   Andy and I missed one by a day on Fair Isle in September 1973, and this Scilly news was almost too much for either of us to take without tears.  Writing about it has been strangely cathartic, and I know, sadly obsessive, but…..

There is more to say about this bird: check out this link to see the story of a White’s Thrush recorded on a camera trap by ecologists working on Wildcats near Bonar Bridge.

I was planning to write about some of the summer’s Scottish ecological experiences but when you suffer from thrush – you need to get it out of your system.


How could it fly the Atlantic on those stubby wings?