This day will possibly go down as one of the most brutal twitches I have ever done, and I diddnt even do it by public transport...
When news of the Purple Swamphen broke on the Sunday afternoon it became hot topic for discussion; was it wild? A first for Britain? Big questions. In the evening after speaking to a few birders, John Hewitt was contemplating making a move in the morning, as so I arranged to come along and go see this bird. The problem? I am of course still on night shifts...
I arrived back from my night shift at 6.00 in the morning, feeling fairly rough. The bird had been seen so we all piled into Johns car and headed down. During the five hour drive down to Suffolk I managed a few hours broken sleep, which was enough for me to at least act like a normal human being whilst we were there.
Once on site it did not take long for us to reach the pool where the Swamphen had been frequenting, and it did not take long for the bird itself to appear out of the reeds. A great big lumbering thing it was, really quite spectacular. It came well out into the open initially, giving fantastic views and then vanished back into the reeds. This was only for a short while though, as soon you could see it skulking through the reeds at the back. Often it would stop to preen or feed allowing fairly decent views.
Sadly though my photos were not what I had hoped they would be. Still, they show beyond any doubt what it was, a pretty stunning bird.
So whats its credentials as a first for Britain? All other rejected records have been either hybrids or the wrong (African or Eastern) race. This is the first time a Western race Swamphen has occurred in this country. Also, on the continent at the moment there is large dispersal of this species as a result of a large drought in Southern Europe. The species' range has been slowly moving north through France, and a few weeks ago one was seen in Brittany. So looking at it on face value, it does look good as potentially my first, first for Britain. Here's hoping.
After an hour and a half of watching the Swamphen we decided to move on. Not only had I done a night shift the previous night, but I also had to get back to do one the oncoming night too, so we could not really stay an excessive length of time. There was not much else on the pool, although in a moment of panic I tried to string a young Water Rail as a spotted crake after all I saw was its pale face and striped back. My bad.
We moved on to the North Wall where we hoped we would be able to see some Stone-Curlew. They have been tricky apparently but when we arrived we were immediately treated to fantastic views of them, all be it a little distant and hazy, hence why my photos are a little weak. Its the first time I have seen this species since I lift ticked it about 5 years ago. It was pretty exciting to see them again. There have been up to four on site, but we only saw two of them.
By now it was early afternoon and we had to be thinking about heading home. We had a quick walk down to look over the scrape where I added distant Spotted Redshank to my yearlist. Sadly distant was something of an understatement. Other waders we managed to spot on the scrape included Ruff, Lapwing and Redshank. The Spotted Redshanks were not black beauties, but silver grey juvs. Still cracking to see.
On the way out I also added another species I have not seen for many years to my year-list in the form of Marsh Tit. I tried to grab a photo but it proved somewhat tricky and the bird all too quickly dived for cover before I was able to get a photo. We waiting in the area for a short while in the hope it might re-appear but it did not. However, when we were waiting by the loos there were some feeders and it made a brief appearance on there too, although once again I was a little slow trying to go for the camera.
So three year-ticks today and potential lifer in waiting too. Not a bad day out. Even on the way out we got cracking views of a Grayling butterfly on Budlia of all places. I would have loved to explore the reserve some more, but sadly I would not have made it back for my shift. Fortunately I did make it back, but I was so exhausted I fell asleep at least twice during my night vidule. Still, a cracking day out, and somewhere I definitely intend to go back to.
Minsmere RSPB: Mute Swan, Mallard, Kestrel, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Reed Warbler, Sand Martin, Little Egret, Purple Swamphen, Swift, Swallow, Common Redshank, Water Rail, Magpie, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Barnacle Goose, Pied Wagtail, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Marsh Tit, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit,