Have you ever been RIGHT up close to a nesting Purple Swamphen? Well, this is an experience I was privileged to have had today among the reed-beds of a freshwater swamp.
It had been a hot day but the golden afternoon sunlight cast a mystic glow over the lake, and seeing as the temperature had dropped I was drawn out of the shady hammock and into my canoe to go exploring. I hadn't paddled very far when I saw a shape hidden in the reeds, about 10 metres in from the open water, and caught a glimpse of red. As I got closer I could make out the form of a Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) sitting on a nest, its red frontal shield the only part of its body that stood out. I decided to leave my boat at the edge of the reed bed and, sinking in the water up to my belly-button, I waded slowly closer, bending the tall stalks of twig-rush (Baumea articulata) out of my way with each step forward.
This bird, known as Kwilom (pronounced 'quill-awm') in the Nyoongar language, is one of Australia's most beautiful waterbirds. There are actually about 13 varieties of this swamphen found throughout the world, so it is clearly a very successful species! Our subspecies here in the south-west of WA (race bellus) is extra special, having paler blue markings on its breast, neck and face, making the colour display in the afternoon sunlight even more vivid.
I started filming, seeing as it was such a good opportunity to capture the bird's behaviour at close range. Then something amazing happened. The swamphen was clearly very comfortable with me as she re-adjusted herself on the nest and gave me a sneak look at its contents: 5 beautifully marked eggs! As you can see below, they were grouped tightly together and tucked under the female's belly to keep warm.
I am looking forward to keeping tabs on this nest over the coming weeks, and hopefully seeing the swamphen chicks when they first emerge. If you are too, keep an eye on this space!