“If there are challenging articles to put forth, this has to be one of them – threading into grey areas of a complex family of Thrushes – TURDINAE.
“Within which, a group of Asian Thrushes – ‘Zoothera’ whose names’ fate hang in indecisive balance, while ornithologists and ‘bird gurus’ banter over sub-species and splits and still pondering… ‘Who is really who?’
“To add to the confusion, various authors list no less than 8 sub-species of Scaly Thrush (Zoothera dauma). Some were brave enough to recognise a split in book print while some others/webmasters of bird websites remain cautious for now only to recognise White’s Thrush (Zoothera dauma aurea) as a sub-species of Scaly Thrush (Zoothera dauma). A split would have Scaly recognised as ‘Zoothera dauma dauma’.
“Of particular interest to document was my encounter with ground foraging Thrush species during my visit to Cuc Phuong National Park N. Vietnam in mid-February 2014 (above).|
“I believe this species to be a winter visitor with breeding grounds in Siberia eastwards to Mongolia, NE China, Korea and Japan.
“Four different profiled images of same bird are represented here taken 15th Feb.2014 approx. 9.30am (above and next 3 images below).
“It was my ‘lifer bird.’(It meant bird observed for the first time and not be confused with some bird-photographers to mean their ‘lifer bird’ to be one photographed first time).
“A quick draw of my bird field guide came to hasty conclusion- bird observed that best matched with Robson’s field guide (2000) was a look alike Scaly Thrush (Zoothera dauma dauma).
“My professional-cum ranger guide was prompt and confident to correct. He uttered in Vietnamese-English, ‘White’s Thrush’ and wag-tailed his index finger as I produced a photographed shot.|
“I was in no mood to question my local bird guide for his over-rated fees and half my birding time compromised by him running a housekeeping errand.
“He had to retrieve a half broken, portable heater for my freezing chalet (below 15C overnight) at Bong Ranger’s sub-station – 20km deep into the wilderness of the national park forest (above).
“I finally figured out the named reference of this bird species. Not because of its comparatively whitish, winged feather colour but was named in honour of Rev. Gilbert White (1720-1793), an English naturalist cum ornithologist from Selborne, Hampshire.
“Renowned for his well published book, ‘The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne’, (1789) Gilbert White was recognised as the first ecologist cum writer in England with a positive and modern attitude of respect for nature.
“In his honour, Perivale Wood Forest Reserve- situated in west of London- was designated by Ealing Borough Council as initially first bird sanctuary and one of oldest Forest Reserves in the UK.
“The Forest Reserve with numerous fauna and flora species is today owned and managed under Gilbert White’s Memorial by the Selborne Society Ltd.
The family home at Selborne ‘The Wakes’ is now a museum.
“While ‘bird gurus’ await more pictorial references and records from bird-photography contributors, citizen scientists etc… to decide if and which Zoothera dauma and aurea species/sub-species are resident, winter visitor, vagrant or partial resident in the many respective places of sightings, lets go to the fields of Cuc Phuong National Park for a look see what these birds were doing through Avian Writer’s eyes.
“Coming up soon… ‘Field days with White’s Thrush at Cuc Phuong NP’”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
30th January 2016
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund
1. A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson (2000, 2011)
2. The Selborne Society and Perivale Wood by Rae Hall and Andy Pedley
3. Additional Records of Birds from Formosa (Taiwan) by G.F.Mees. Rijksmuseum of National History Leiden.
4. The Internet Bird Collection, Oriental Birding Images, Rasmussen & Anderton (2005)