Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The day I flew to Namibia...

Admittedly old news now, but on Sunday 31st July I was sat in the London Guildhall celebrating my mate's wedding. Pretty safe season birding wise, although these days the big birds seem to drop whenever (usually when I have prior commitments!). Anyway, there was news of a Purple Swamphen at Minsmere RSPB - potentially a new British bird?

To be honest, I reckon a fair few people were stung recently with the acceptance of the Chinese Pond Heron. What this meant was a more 'glass half full approach' to this bird, with little skepticism about the bird's origins from the birding fraternity - with a recent scattering of birds in France, with one recently in the extreme northwest and nine extralimital records since April, there was also decent circumstantial evidence for wild origin. Added to this, the overall bluish toned plumage meant it was of the nominate Iberian/European race too; unlike the usual escaped poliocephalus 'Grey-headed' birds.

Despite flying to Namibia early evening, I decided to dawn raid Minsmere on 1st August and look what was plonking about in the early morning haze...
Purple Swamphen Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk 1st August 2016
Nice bird, great to be up and about at one of Britain's best wildlife reserves at the crack of dawn. I had actually seen a Purple Swamphen in Britain previously - in Cumbria in 1997; it cost me an Ivory Gull (which I still needed at the time) and I must admit that the origins (and race) of this bird were never properly determined. With the new breed of BOU decision making - a combination of pseudo-science and mere opinion - I doubt it'll be more than a couple of years before this Suffolk record gets the green light. Happy days!


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