I took a sandwich to Lower Barnwell lock at lunchtime, hoping to sit quietly and watch a bit nature. Instead I spent nearly an hour hopping about on the bank and trotting across the lock bridge, trying to take in two kingfishers putting on an acrobatic aerial display with matching chattering sound effects.
They flew within a few yards of each other other in the stretch just below the lock, then separated and made great wheeling turns through the trees and back again in overlapping circles. It was too fast to take in, a blur of unexpected changes of direction, orange underparts alternating with the blue of their wings.
Then one would land high in a tree and watch with head cocked. More calls, getting closer, then an explosive looping flight and a new perch further down the bank. This happened several times before things got a little quieter. I moved to get a closer view of the perching trees but by then things had petered out.
At first I thought it was a couple in courtship display, but all the photos I took appeared to show males. It wasn’t conclusive that they were adult birds anyway, and according to the books this year’s chicks won’t be pairing until February. So it’s likely this was a dispute over territory, maybe between two young birds, but a skirmish rather than a fight to the death.
I may go back again again tomorrow. It’s not often you see two birds interacting so closely. With the prospect of so much excitement I think a bottle of water and a few nuts might be more digestible than a sandwich though!