Sunday, 11 September 2016

Monster Purple Swamp Beast

Inevitably, I had to twitch the Western Swamphen at Alkborough Flats as it is only a stone's throw away. A great spot and only an hour from York, Alkborough is a major Humber realignment scheme that has matured nicely into a cracking birding place. Headed down to the hide which was full, with a gang of other birders outside. Sadly, there had been no sign, though as the bird had disappeared for a day and then re-appeared, I was hopeful it would still be around. The lagoon in front of the hide was packed with birds: eight Spoonbills, two Spotted Redshanks, c100 Avocets, c50 Blackwits, c30 Ruff etc - cracking stuff. On a couple of dead trees poking out of the reedbed, were both Peregrine and a juvenile Merlin. Nice.


After an hour or so, somebody got a pager message saying the Swamp Donkey was showing from the hillside above the sewage works on a different lagoon! Nobody in the hide moved, so I left, informed the birders gathered outside and we all headed off to climb the hill. Up where we thought the message meant certainly gave a good vista, but no purple chicken was on view. I headed further along the path and came across a guy who said he was watching it, distantly, from the entrance to a livery stables. We got scopes up and sure enough, there was the red-beaked purple monster, standing on the edge of the reeds. It was on the other side of the reed bed at the back of the lagoon viewable from the hide, so close, but invisible. As birders arrived we got them on the bird but after a few minutes it melted back into the reeds.Awesome!

45 minutes passed and more birders arrived, but the bird failed to show again. I thought it might be worth heading back to the hide as it might be working through the reeds back to the main lagoon. Sadly, it did not. I decided to head home. On the climb back up to the car park, I thought I'd put the scope on the pool just to check, and incredibly, the Swamphen was sitting back on the edge of the reeds! Simultaneously I got a message from James Robson saying the bird was showing from the livery, so thankfully those patient enough to wait had been rewarded.

Now we just need to see if this is accepted as the first record for Britain...

On the way back, c1,500 Avocets on the mud near Read's Island was cosmic. The last time I was here was watching a White-rumped Sandpiper back in 1995 and I could never have imagined this number of Avocets in Yorkshire back then. Staggering!

No comments: