Success At The Kingfisher Perch!

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It’s been a long patient wait for clear skies in the mornings and today was finally the day I would set myself up at the Kingfisher perch…..with success, but it was a long wait!

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Male Common Kingfisher - Guarda Rios Macho - Alcedo atthis

I was out of bed at 5:30am checking the skies, they were totally clear! I grabbed a quick coffee, dressed up in my US Camo gear and left the house. However, in this time, a thick blanket of cloud had appeared. It was moving very quickly so I decided to take a chance.

I was at the river at 6:20am, 10 minutes after sunrise and it was terrible light with thick cloud. As the sun got higher in the sky, the light was just about workable as I watched a Kingfisher flying around tree to tree, diving in the river. It didn’t visit the perch and disappeared after 5 minutes.

2.5 hours later (its approaching 9am) and the clouds start to burn off in the heat of the sun and it was a further 30 minutes before I saw a Kingfisher again. So to recap, I had been sat on the side of the riverbank for over 3 hours under a camo netting in full camo clothing with a Boonie hat and Camo scarf covering all but my eyes and the sun was starting to get hot.

I set myself a deadline of 10am where I would give up for the day, so imagine my delight that at 9:49am a Male visited the perch, dived and caught a fish!

Male Common Kingfisher - Guarda Rios Macho - Alcedo atthis

The light by now was great, maybe a little too great, but I had compensated for this with the camera settings. I’ve looked very closely at these images because there is a little bit of red visible on the underside of the beak, could this be a young female? I don’t think so, I think it is a reflection from the breast feathers.

Male Common Kingfisher - Guarda Rios Macho - Alcedo atthis

He didn’t stay for long, just the one fish before flying away. I chose this time to leave and almost did a dance once I left the side of the river!

The Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a similar sized bird to a Sparrow and has some incredible eyes to enable it to catch fish. As the 2nd photo above shows, it points its head down to the water to spot a target then you will see it bob its head up and down, this is to gauge the distance. What I find incredible is they have to allow for refraction of light that the water gives. Have you ever put a straight stick into water and notice it looks bent?! Once a target fish is spotted it dives into the water where a 3rd eyelid protects the eye, the wings open once in the water to enable the bird to fly back to the perch. The Kingfisher has 2 Foveae which is the part of the retina that has the most receptors, it is able to switch between these Foveae when it enters the water enabling it continue to see. Due to this configuration, when out of the water, a Kingfisher has monocular vision (both eyes used separately) and binocular vision (3 dimensions using both eyes together) in the water.

Male Common Kingfisher - Guarda Rios Macho - Alcedo atthis

This has been a long time in the making to get some shots, not only the waiting at the riverbank, but the weeks and weeks of frustration with our terrible morning clouds. If you are wondering how close I was able to get to him, I was just 5 metres away!

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