A friend has been living on a narrow boat on a backwater of the Nene near Friday Bridge for several years. He’d told me that there’s an annual kingfisher nest site right opposite his mooring, so I went to visit him and see for myself. It’s always fascinating to drive across the fens – the big skies, the switchback roads sinking towards dykes on either side, isolated farms dotted like islands in a sea of agriculture. I followed the detailed instructions he’d given me and eventually found the right place.
It was good to see him again and we sat on some decking beside his boat. The river is part of the old course of the Nene and is narrow at that point – maybe 60 or 70 feet. The nest site is around a tree, far too overgrown at this time of year to see much, but it was fascinating to hear some of his stories. People who live in boats can see a lot of kingfishers and watch their behaviour over time. His boat had even been the target of their aggression. When it went away to be repainted he asked that a kingfisher symbol be added to the bow. On its return to its mooring a kingfisher took exception to the portrait and repeatedly and violently attacked it with both beak and feet.
In the mating seasons he would hear banging noises and find birds hovering at the portholes, pecking at their reflections. He had also seen kingfishers hovering, something I’ve seen a few times too. He thought he was seeing a kestrel in the distance but on coming closer realised it was a kingfisher hanging in the air a few yards above the water. Eventually it dived into the water and took a fish then flew off.
Talk shifted from kingfishers to music, the reason we had met in the first place. We played together both inside and outside the boat. It was great to see him again and to see where and how he lived. He seemed very content with the spot.