January 2011, my son Bradley and I took a trip to southern Florida and the Everglades. This was a couple years before Ingrid and birding entered my life . . . so Bradley and I were on the airboat to see alligators.
While deep in the swamp, the airboat driver slowed to see a monster reptile when a bluish hen-like bird jumped onto the boat and wouldn’t get off.
This was my first experience with a Purple Gallinule, a beautiful and relatively tame bird of the American south. Since then, Ingrid and I have seen this bird occasionally in Texas.
Last weekend, Ingrid and I began to hear reports of a juvenile Purple Gallinule on a dirt road in the Moosehead Lakes region (3 hours away). The bird was apparently attracted to parked vehicles . . . repeatedly walking underneath them.
So a couple days ago, Ingrid and I drove up to Greenville, Maine, in hopes of seeing a bird that has no business in Maine, particularly as the cold weather approached.
It was a long ride . . . and we never found the bird . . . although we spent 3 hours looking for it.
This morning, incredibly, a juvenile Purple Gallinule was reported in a Kennebunk, an hour south. We rushed down and the Gallinule was feeding on the grass, just a few feet from a dozen excited birders. We are pretty sure it’s the same bird we missed two days before . . . 200 miles to the north.