Tuesday, 27 March 2012

An Extremely Varied Thrush.

Many younger and older Brit birders alike will be aware of the varied thrush that turned up in Cornwall back in 1982. As it stands, it remains the sole UK sighting and was the only European record until a bird made landfall in Iceland in 2004.

Schizochroistic varied thrush
One of the most talked about elements of the Cornish bird's appearance was the fact that it was an exceptionally unusual varied thrush. Instead of being essentially a black and orange bird, this individual completely lacked the orange plumage tones and instead had a monochromatic appearance, with the orange pigments being altogether absent and replaced with light greys and whites. There were countless discussions over the likelihood of such a rare, aberrant plumage being indicative of a captive origin but the consensus eventually settled for it being a wild vagrant (it being a 1st year bird helped).
Well, earlier this week a Victoria birder, Aziza Cooper, reported a very similar looking bird in among a small flock of 'proper' varied thrushes in Beacon Hill Park but it wouldn't allow her get a pic of it. On her second attempt a few days later, Aziza managed to get the photo shown here, and it is indeed a truly striking individual.
This kind of anomalous plumage is known as schizochroism (I looked it up!) - this is where specific coloured pigments are lacking; clearly oranges in the case of this fine bird.  

On a far more mundane note, I had my first violet-green swallows of the year yesterday lunchtime by Langford Lake. Nearby a pair of Townsend's warblers and a singing 'Audubon's' yellow-rumped warbler added to the feeling of spring.

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