Double Whammy!! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #70

Double whammy!! My last trip out for an amazing Scissor-tailed Flycatcher lifer resulted in also seeking and finding a second lifer nearby, A Virginia Rail! That’s pretty ridiculous and I’d have been thrilled to see even just one of those great birds. While I was out chasing those birds a bit east, there was a report a bit west. A Purple Gallinule had popped up in an urban park. Whattt!??!

This is a quite unprecedented species for my region. The Purple Gallinule has a range that extends not much north of Florida so needless to say this was very exciting! About a year ago I saw it’s counterpart the Common Gallinule (formally Common Moorhen). Also a unseen entity by most around here, although its range technically comes to my area and even north of me.

I was able to secure a few photo’s of that Common Gallinule last year but the bird stayed all the way on the other side of the pond so please bear with my photo! I had met another birder while looking and he had a nice scope which afforded me some great looks! A super cool bird!


Common Gallinule on right, American Coot on left


So the next day off I went in search of the Purple Gallinule. Now news had surfaced that an American Bittern had been ‘sunning’ nearby! Whoa! I had seen a American Bittern in flight briefly once before, but getting a better look at one is something I had always wished for.


Upon arriving at the park there was some bustling bird activity. There was an outgoing Pine Warbler near the entrance, and not much further in there was a female Black-throated Blue Warbler looking for bugs.


Pine Warbler


Black-throated Blue Warbler (female)


Finding the right area of the park, the other birders who were already ooh-ing and ahh-ing!  I was told the Purple Gallinule had gone into a bit of hiding. This was a pattern it had repeated all day and it was expected to come out again shortly. A kind birder pointed to the right to the ‘sunning’ American Bittern and now I understood what they meant by ‘sunning’. It stood plain as day on a rock near the shore of the pond blissfully taking in the day and the nice warm light. For a bird that is known to stay well hidden, even well hidden in plain sight, this bird was downright social!


The Sun was in a rough spot for photo’s but I did my best!






Enjoying the Bittern I heard a commotion to my left as the Purple Gallinule had come back out of the reeds! I enjoyed it in the binoculars and tried to snap a photo for my records! It favored this one rock on the left side of the pond and would weave in and out of the reeds and back on to that rock.


Purple Gallinule




How 'bout those feet tho!



This bird, being an immature is not as purple as the name would suggest, but what a great bird and what a great tick off the life-list! We were all enjoying great looks of these birds when there was a bit of a ruckus! A few Canada Geese got in a tiff, which got the Bittern animated and brought this Great Blue Heron over to pose right in front of us onlookers! Many people, not just birders couldn’t help but grab their camera’s (or cell phones) and take a snap of this confiding heron!


Great Blue Heron


We all had a lot of fun with that and I lent my binoculars to a few non-birders that came by so they could see these cool,rare birds! Their reactions were kinda priceless. Seeing that Purple Gallinule with those huge feet and the sedentary American Bittern trying to blend in uneffectivly brought out smiles and we might just have spread the good word of birding a little bit that day! I even was taken up on my offer to e-mail or text photo’s of the birds to some folks that didn’t have a camera on hand. It was nice to share the moment and share the photo’s too!

The Bittern suddenly flew over to a closer rock and I was able to get some photo’s from another perspective. Every once in a while the sun would tuck behind a cloud and help me avoid just how back-lit this pond was.


American Bittern


Bitterns are known to raise their beaks up like this. It is the way they try to imitate the reeds they use for camouflage. This bird was fooling nobody though!





As if that wasn’t getting lucky enough the Purple Gallinule started getting very active and even came quite close as it darted about looking for food!






For a time the Gallinule disappeared but I got even more fortunate when it eventually came out right in front of me, giving me my best photo opportunity of the day! The bird was a bird erratic and quick moving for the focus system on my Nikon p600, but I wisely took a weird a vantage point that helped me avoid the direct sun and although I lost some quantity I got what I think are my best pictures of the day, although still not great. It sure was amazing to see this bird so close up!




It was certainly double the pleasure and double the fun to handg with these cool birds!


What a fun day, and what fun birds!! Its been a interesting migration this year. It seemed to get a late start, was complicated by different weather patterns in many directions and there was some certainly unexpected species as evidenced by the last bunch of posts on this blog! Who knows maybe next week’s ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog will be about a species that regularly winters in Africa! 😉


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