I went down south for a couple of days and when I came back the kingfisher situation had completely changed. Before, there had been a lot of territorial calling and chasing about, mostly at the Cotterstock end of the river and in the woods where the Glapthorn brook comes in. Now there is peace and quiet again, and I’ve only had three sightings in as many days.
One way or another the dispute must have been resolved, but I’m still in the dark as to whether there is a second nest and a new brood of chicks. I’ve seen birds carrying fish, but not in the numbers I’d expect and not always in the same direction. I took advantage of the cooler weather this morning and walked the whole territory – first on the path as far as Cotterstock mill pond, then along the brook as far as Glapthorn, then back through Cotterstock and along the road to Tansor.
I was listening out carefully for calls and the tinkling sound of chicks fresh out of the nest (or even the tiny purring cheep of chicks still in there). I asked some regular walkers on the Glapthorn stretch if they had seen or heard anything but the answer was negative. Same for me.
Having traced the brook back to the main river I got my folding stool out for a rest and a drink of water and sat quietly for 15 minutes or so. At last a bird came round the bend of the river without any fanfare and whizzed through. It was low to the water but slightly above my eyeline. In the absence of strong sunlight the impression was of the red-orange of the under wings and body, with a little blue on top of that. It was silent, and not carrying a fish.
I was delighted to see it. Whether I know the bigger picture about what’s going on is immaterial. What’s important is that they are doing what they do and thriving. I decided to walk along the road to Tansor, which is beyond the point where I’d normally go, just to check out what might be happening downstream.
I was disappointed not to be able to get to the river at Oundle School’s boathouses. I’m pretty sure the frontage there was traditionally open to the public, but a combination of covid restrictions and ordinary people looking for places to access the river has prompted them to close it. Hmm…
But luckily there’s still a view of the river from the open churchyard next door, and as I stood beneath a yew tree I heard the swish of a narrow boat heading upriver. I nearly jumped in the air as the name appeared – “Halcyondays”.
Halcyon is the Latin word for kingfisher, and Halcyon Days is a Shakespeare quote which harks back nostalgically to the calm days of early autumn, what we now know as an Indian Summer. It refers to classical mythology where Alcyone was transformed into a kingfisher after the death of her husband Ceyx in a shipwreck.
When she nested on a beach the sea threatened to destroy it until her father Aeolus, god of the winds, calmed the wind and waves. I may not be seeing so much of the kingfishers at the moment, but a sign that Shakespeare might be on my side brought out the broadest of grins!