As we get to the last week or so of swift activity around the new "Swift Half" and I become genuinely inconsolable for a wee while because of this inevitability each year - something of a surprise this morning and most certainly a first.
As is the way, these days, I tend to try and find time to complete a seven mile walk around the area, at some point, every day. Often I'm with my two boys but sometimes I'm on my own (at weekends generally).
This morning, my seven mile walk was a solo affair - and began at 0645am.
As I walked alongside a thick(ish), tall hawthorn hedge, running down a lane which bordered a very large school field (which used to be my local golf course up until a few years ago), I noticed something about 8 foot off the ground, in this hedge. Something organic. Something that looked like one of those toy rubber chickens or perhaps a baby wryneck. All stretched out and elongated... and motionless.
Unlike one of those toy, rubber chickens though, this thing had feathers - feathers indicating it was a moorhen (the feathers were grey in the main, but the moorhen's white "petticoat" feathers were clearly visible.
Now... this hedge is NOWHERE NEAR any water - and as the moorhen was something like eight foot up the hedge, stretched out (long neck) and completely motionless... I assumed it was dead. Perhaps it had flown into this hawthorn hedge (by accident) and died. Perhaps a dog had killed it ealier in a walk and the dog's owner, somewhat embarrassed, had tossed the dead moorhen into the hedge, where it now effectively, hung.
I had my camera (my wee pocket panasonic), so I moved towards the motionless moorhen, stretched out inside a hedge, eight foot off the ground and raised the camera to take its photo.
And the moorhen suddenly flapped and flustered and popped out of the hedge a few feet away from me, ran down the path in front of me and disappeared.
I got no photo
I've occasionally seen moorhens fly, sometimes quite high in the air - and I've often heard moorhens fly overhead at night. Those strange sounds you may sometimes hear, at night, made by birds clearly (but which birds?!) are very often made by rails or moorhens or coots or grebes - birds that one doesn't often see fly during the day - but I don't mind admitting - until this morning, I'd never seen a moorhen in a hedge, nowhere near water, pretending (as I'm sure it was) to be dead or a branch, so it wouldn't be noticed by me.
I've read since this morning, (here for example), that moorhens can and DO enlongate their bodies to get through dense vegetation and can and DO eat haws and roost/nest occasionally in hawthorn hedges. But I still am confused by this particular moorhen this morning, high up this hawthorn hedge, doing its rubber chicken impression - as there genuinely is no water around that hedge - for at least half a mile. Not even a drainage ditch of any real merit.
Well... you live and learn don't you?
Next time... I'll be quicker on the camera.
Keep 'em peeled.