Wednesday 12 March 2014

The Underrated Moorhen

As I was out showing my friend around Balderton Lake, it was impossible to ignore the large number of moorhens scuttling around on the the lakeshore, or hauling themselves through the water with the characteristic motion of their bobbing head.

Most of the time, they just get ignored.

I can't believe I'm alone is sometimes regarding the moorhen as a 'non-bird'. Along with the coot, mallard and canada goose, it isn't really regarded as something worth recording. Certainly not in comparison with a goosander, pochard or even Leroy the muscovy on this local lake.

The fact is, it is a really under-appreciated bird. It has some wonderful colours in its plumage - glossy blacks with just a hint of irridescence, a scarlet beak tipped with bright yellow, and its gawky green legs showing a hint of bright red where the thigh meets the belly, as if the moorhen is hoping to attract attention while out hitchhiking. As it walks, its twitching tail flashes white like a bunny rabbit hopping through a meadow.

A Balderton Lake moorhen
Their antics are great fun too. They are the sort of bird that seems quite tame until the moment you produce your cameraphone in order to take a picture, at which point it will make for water or the nearest cover with its comedic, yet delicate, overstriding gait. When they reach the water, they swim with the style of a clockwork toy that somehow keeps making jerky progress despite various bits of the mechanism seemingly working in opposite directions.

They are very characterful birds, and as for the chicks, with their black furry ping pong ball bodies stuck on a pair of comedy oversize feet, well they are a delight!

Copyright CreamCrackeredNature 12.03.14

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