Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Search for Ardea Purpurea - January 26

It is said to be “one of the hardest (birds) to photograph”, for me it is proving to be one of the hardest birds to see.  I am speaking of our island’s latest Eurasian visitor and this one is a rarity if ever there has been one.  With only three previous records dating back to 1998, this bird, which can stand over three feet tall, is very shy and likes hiding among the reef and grass of fresh water wetlands.  Our bird, Ardea Purpurea commonly known as the Purple Heron, was first sited at the Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge on December 21st, 2014.  On that occasion it was photographed by Richard Roach.  After that it disappeared until the mornings of January 25th and 26th when it was seen by Dr. John Webster.  It was noted that sightings were made during the early morning, thus emphasizing this bird’s crepuscular nature, but this species may also feed during the day.

From WSR to Oil Field Road and Back

I joined the search on the afternoon of January 26th.  As I expected, when I arrived the Purple Heron was not in the swamp.  A family of Black-bellied Ducks, a wintering Great Egret and about three Little Blue Herons were among the birds in the swamp.  
Part of the Cattle Egrets rookery

I hiked to a Cattle Egrets rookery, about a half mile away and then to the road next to an abandoned shooting swamp, then back to WSR, a round trip of about a mile and a half.   At swamp, which is overrun with grass, a bird caught my attention; I was able to get a few photos of it flying off.  An examination concluded that the bird was a Great Blue Heron. 
Great Blue Heron

On route back to WSR, many of the small puddles had wading shorebirds, mainly Solitary Sandpipers.  Once again at the WSR, I made a search of the back swamp, the swamp to the north of the hut.  Herons love the back swamp, it is secluded; tall grass grows on the perimeter with thick over hanging trees.  The quick check found a Black-crowned Night Heron (1st for the year) and two green Herons.

I left WSR at 6:10 that afternoon and up until that time the Purple Heron was not there.
The search for the Ardea purpurea will continue…

Molting Little Blue Heron

Noisy Solitary Sandpiper


Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Great Egret

Little Blue Heron