The Curious Incident of the Purple Swamphen
Back at the beginning of August a Purple Gallinule or Swamphen was being reported as being sighted in ditch near Chester. I must admit I do not usually go to rare bird sightings as I prefer to avoid the crowds. However, given the close proximity I thought I would go and take a look and hoped to avoid the birdwatchers by arriving at first light on a Sunday morning. The bird was quickly located and it had taken up temporary residence in a small steeply sided heavily overgrown ditch.
A dogwalker passed me and told me that the bird had been there for around 3 weeks and the unusual technicolour 'moorhen' had become well know to the locals. The birdwatchers soon started arriving and there was great debate over the origins of the birds which was un-ringed and free flying. Checks had been made with zoos and bird collections and none had reported any loses.
The bird was the grey headed race from Asia which is known to be highly migratory but it seemed unlikely that such a bird would undertake such an epic voyage. To me the origin (escapee or a lost wild bird) was irrelevant as the bird was free flying and in the wild. Such a beautifully coloured bird certainly brightened up a fairly dull Sunday morning.
It was a difficult bird to photograph given the situation and abundance of vegetation. The bird seemed to be very settled and was happily stripping off grass seed heads.
I stay for around 3 hours and decided by that time I had got enough photographs and the numbers of bird spotting scopes was rapidly increasing in to a mini forest of metal and glass.
Apparently after I left two looking locals arrived claiming the bird belonged to them and it had escaped from the back garden where they were kept as pets. This seems somewhat unlikely but you never know what is kept in back gardens of the UK! The report has it that they then went to considerable effort charging up and down the ditch with nets but were unsuccessful in capturing the bird. Subsequently I have heard that the bird flew off and is now residing on a fishing lake about 15 miles away where it is happily living with its diet supplemented by free handouts of sweetcorn from the anglers.