Spring has sprung in the Maitland area if the breeding frenzy at Hands Lagoon in Bolwarra is any indication.
The grassy area around the swamp is covered with Australasian Swamphens and their tiny chicks.
There are other waterbirds there also, including a family of black swans and more recently a cygnet, but the majority of birds are swamphens.
While many wetland birds are dull-looking and well camouflaged, the Swamphen stands out with its striking black and purple colouring and its large oversized red bill and frontal shield.
It also has red eyes and reddish legs and large feet with long toes.
These remarkable feet, help them walk on reeds and are also used like a hand to hold food while eating.
The ancient Romans regarded them as "noble", possibly because of their purple feathers and were the only bird species they would not eat.
Also known as Purple Swamphens, these birds are the size of a chicken and despite their large size, can fly quite well.
They prefer the grassy edges of swamps, marshes, and waterways where they can feed, and hide, when necessary, amongst the reeds and floating vegetation.
Their diet consists of the soft shoots of reeds and rushes, snails and frogs and the occasional egg raided from other birds' nests.
Swamphens can be found in pairs during the breeding season or in small communal groups.
Groups of birds can contain of up to 12 members, consisting of mature birds and family members and young from the previous season.
Often eggs from several females are incubated in the same nest and all members of the group take turns to incubate the eggs and feed and defend the young chicks when they hatch.
This seems to be the case at Bolwarra.
The chicks start to forage when they are a few days old.
They are dependent on the adults until they are about 10 weeks old and can find enough food by themselves.
Tiny pieces of reeds and grass are fed to the chicks.
It was fascinating to observe the chicks being fed by different adults and shepherded into the reeds at any perceived threat.
I also witnessed the almost lethal attack by a Swamp Harrier after a tasty snack, which was heralded by the raucous high-pitched screeching of the adult swamphens, and luckily unsuccessful.
It's a busy day in a wetland in spring!