Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stalking the Purple Gallinule

The past few days have seen, by our Ohio standards, a virtual onslaught of Purple Gallinules. PG's are cool by any measure, and this technicolor jumble of glowing feathers normally stays in southern swamps, far south of here. But in the past few days, not one, not two, but THREE have thus far come to light in the Buckeye State.

This blog is a tale of the most famous of the trio, and to that uno momento. I heard about the following gallinule soon after returning from a week in West Virginia, and it drove me crazy. I am busy at work, and it would appear unseemly to immediately dart off again after a rare bird. But, I am a closet lister, but only in Ohio where longevity has allowed me to accumulate a rather massive state list.

And Purple Gallinule is/was not on it. A major nemesis bird for me in Ohio, I had chased several of them striking out on all. So, around 9:30 this morning, Jennifer of Medina County rings me out of the blue, in my office, and makes a compelling case that she has a Purple Gallinule wandering around her yard, only about 20 miles south of the widely seen celebrity gallinule in Lorain County. This is too much - I beg forgiveness and understanding from my boss and shoot northward on I-71.

Arriving at the Jennifer estate, there is no gallinule, anywhere. We look high and low, but there are many places it might have slunk off to and we can't find it. She shows me the photos, though. No fear - the old reliable bird is only 20 miles to the north, so there I go.

Finding the gallinule at the beautiful Columbia Reservation was not hard. At the entrance to the walk was this neat sign pointing the way. The park manager, Linda Paull, is an accomplished birder and she's the one that found the bird. She also runs an EXTREMELY bird and birder friendly park!

Turn either your head or your monitor sideways and you'll see an upright chair sporting a guest logbook. This is a Blogger foible - for some reason the blogger godz absolutely refuse to allow this photo to load in an upright position. Anyway, Linda thinks that as many as 500 people have come to see the bird, and that doesn't include all of the normal park-goers who have been sucked into the madness and been smitten by the sight of the purple swamp thing.

The rather Floridian scene of the gallinule. A lovely bit of wetness, cloaked with dense stands of Spatterdock, Nuphar advena, one of our native water-lilies. I ran into Jeff Wolfinger here, and it was good to see this crack photographer again.

The aforementioned Spatterdock, which will later factor into this tale.

Within seconds of arrival we spotted the frenetic gallinule raging through the wetland. No shrinking violet, this boy. While they appear rather clumsy and oafish on the wing, these gallinules nonetheless regularly turn up WAY beyond their normal haunts. It is a tropical bird, and the southernmost U.S. represent the northern limits of its range. Central and South America is the core of its distribution.

The first Ohio records dates to 1877, and a remarkable four were found that year. This spring, too, must also be a major flight, as yet a third gallinule was brought to a wildlife rehabilitor in western Ohio on Sunday. There are certainly more of these critters running around out there and I'll not be surprised if others turn up. Normally, we average perhaps one bird every other year or so.

Our Purple Gallinule ravages the odd leathery ball-like flower of a Spatterdock. I watched it do this multiple times, and the bird would send the petals flying. Reason? Spatterdock flowers tend to be full of insects going after the pollen, and I suspect the gallinule was after the insects.

One last shot of this outrageously colored charmer with the oversized feet. One thousand thanks are in order for Linda Paull, not only for finding the bird and alerting everyone, but for being such a fantastic ambassador for the scads of visiting birders.

For my part, I am grateful to finally have broken the Purple Gallinule curse, and it became #362 on my Ohio list.



Weedpicker Cheryl said...

Congrats Jim-
Glad to see you got that one!

Can I turn my monitor back the right way now?


Kathi said...

Another PUGA reported on Cincy Birds. Seen Sunday May 9 at from the observation tower at Spring Valley Wildlife by Corey and Andrea Braden and "Stan from Dayton," who took photos.

Jim McCormac said...

Wow! That makes SIX now!