The first sighting of the Western Swamphen was at 2.05pm on Sunday 31st July on the Girder Pool at Minsmere. But the first opportunity to visit would be the following Sunday! Left hoping the bird would stay throughout the week it was still being reported at 8.40pm on Friday evening. I started to think there was a good chance it would stick around for our visit, Unfortunately there were no sightings on Saturday and not surprisingly we failed to connect on Sunday.
Almost a month later it would be reported at Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire and with the bird still being reported yesterday Brian finally cracked and this morning we were on the road heading up the A1. Leaving at 4.30am it was an uneventful journey and we were on site and joining two Kent birders in the first hide around 7.30. we were still sitting there some five hours later having had no sighting of the Swamphen!
Plenty of waders were present on the pool in front of us with Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Ruff, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Snipe and Water Rail all present. Three Marsh harriers were seen hunting over the reedbeds along with a Kingfisher and a small party of Bearded Tits. The highlight for me being five Spoonbills that circled the area and then landed on the pool in front of us giving nice scope views.
With no reports of the bird all morning we decided to head back up the hill and scan the pools from a much higher vantage point along Sandpit Lane. Two birders were already present and joining them we began to scan the much smaller square pool directly behind the pool we had been watching and found the Swamphen walking along the fringes of the reedbed.
Having put the word out to the bird services it was amusing to see the hide below empty at pace heading in our direction. Unfortunately the bird disappeared out of sight before they reached us and would not be seen again until some three hours later, by this time we were already well on our way home.
Will it make it onto the British List? The wait begins.