After I’d posted pictures on Facebook a friend I’ve never met messaged to say he’d never seen a kingfisher and where were the best places to look? The easiest thing was to invite him to join me on a walk. Having said that, I warned that nothing in nature is guaranteed but at least if we saw nothing I could point out the best places to look on a future visit.
Kingfishers usually like to perch on a thin bare branch a few feet above the water where they have a good view of the fish. That will often be a dead branch in spring and summer, but in winter there are many more to choose from. If you haven’t seen a kingfisher actually landing after a flight then the trick is to slowly look along the trees or shrubs at the water’s edge. If you are lucky a tiny patch of shiny blue or the orange breast will jump out at you. You need patience and sharp eyes. Kingfishers also make a little whistling “pip” sound which can alert you if you know it well enough.
We got almost to the side weir without seeing one, but met other people who already had. Just then I heard that dog-whistle call and saw a profile shoot by low to the water. A swift walk across the weir and there it was, perched against a patch of ivy on the far bank.
After seeing zoomed in images of kingfishers it would be natural to expect to see the bird in as much detail, but they are so tiny that the naked eye is only aware of small patches of colour that contrast with the background – the orange breast feathers and the blue of the rest of the bird, which in strong sunlight may be almost tourquoise (if the light is dim the colours may not show up at all). Luckily someone passed him a pair of binoculars while I was concentrating on getting pictures.
It was a wonderful being able to find one for him – a kingfisher shared is doubly enjoyable.