Swamphens in winter

'Purple swamphen standing' by Paula Peeters. Watercolour pencil on paper.
‘Purple swamphen standing’ by Paula Peeters. Watercolour pencil on paper.

Last winter Dowse Lagoon nearly dried up completely. The water- and swamp-plants died back, and green pick was hard to find. Every day, groups of purple swamphens would forage in the grassy parks nearby. The lawn grass around here is the sort with underground runners. The swamphens would tug these runners up with their beaks, then hold them in an over-large foot while daintily picking bits off. It was easy to sketch them while they were out in the open.

'Purple swamphen eating lawn grass' by Paula Peeters. Watercolour pencil on paper.
‘Purple swamphen eating lawn grass’ by Paula Peeters. Watercolour pencil on paper.

Now it is autumn, and the big rains have come. The swamphens are mostly hidden, luxuriating in the abundant greenery that has grown back in and around the lagoon.

'Purple swamphen walking' by Paula Peeters. Watercolour pencil on paper.
‘Purple swamphen walking’ by Paula Peeters. Watercolour pencil on paper.

6 Responses

  1. Mary mageau

    I enjoyed this interesting article about the purple swamphen, accompanied by your three lovely drawings. We live in much the same area: I’m in Samford Village and you are in Brisbane nearby. Where did you actually see the hens?
    Best wishes for a Happy Easter.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And it was a nice surprise to hear you are nearby. I haven’t fully explored your blog – as you had me hooked on the first page! – so I was assuming you were in the US or UK. The swamphens were grazing around Dowse Lagoon, also called Second Lagoon, in Sandgate. We were watching them nervously as they would often cross roads on their daily adventures, and we feared they’d be skittled by cars. But I think they have a degree of road sense, as this rarely happened. Sadly, I’ve recently seen two immature dusky moorhens in the local area apparently killed by vehicles.
      Happy Easter to you too – I will have a closer look at your blog!

  2. Rhonda Butcher

    Hey Paula,
    Thanks for the extra Easter treat – just love the blog and the drawings! Keep them coming. My favourite so far, as you know, is the grubby ibis article. However I have a request for an article on geckos please: being from Melbourne I don’t have them running round the patio like you do. A good gecko tale could just knock the grubby ibis story off top spot – you never know. Happy Easter to all in Sandgate.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Rhonnie, Thanks for your appreciation! Hmmm a gecko article… I’m very aware I have quite a birdy bias going on here, so I am cooking up a few posts on other aspects of nature, including one on reptiles. Could include geckoes, you never know… Have a lovely Easter, cheers Paula

  3. Dayna

    Hi Paula,
    Purple Swamp Hens are just one of my favourites, but after visiting New Zealand a few years back I have taken to calling them by their kiwi name, ‘Pukeko’, mainly because it’s fun to say (and therefore I can remember it!).
    They seem to be a little smarter than Tasmanian Native Hens (a similar type of bird), which run very fast but seem to like playing ‘chicken’ with cars.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Dayna, Yes Pukeko is a great word for a great bird that has a certain sense of style. I think Pukekos have a degree of fame or maybe affection in New Zealand that purple swamphens don’t seem to get in Australia (even if they are recent arrivals from Australia, like the much-reviled possums). Thanks for reading! Cheers, Paula