King of the Fishers

Kingfisher; Photo credit: Steve Plume. Kingfisher; Photo credit: Steve Plume.

Saturday, March 15, 2014
2:00 PM

To many they are the king of British birds.

If you are lucky enough to see one of them, as they dart by, the intense, shimmering, aquamarine flash of colour will stay with you a lifetime.

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The bird in the water is seen with a Bream; Photo credit: Steve Plume.The bird in the water is seen with a Bream; Photo credit: Steve Plume.

The kingfishers, (Alcedo atthis) usually is seen as a streak of irridescent blue and orange as it zips from perch to perch alongside East Anglia’s rivers, waterways, reservoirs and lakes.

Usually you hear the shrill call long before you see the bird and this is a bonus – it gives you time to stop to prepare for a photograph.

Kingfishers, protected birds, are found all over the UK and are gradually heading north and west through Scotland again. For those that live near water and have a garden pond it’s quite possible that you may attract one to the garden.

The nests are a minor engineering feat, built on a river bank. The pair excavate a burrow between two and three feet in depth (60-90cms) with a larger living area. No nest material is used.

In a good year they may have three broods. Considering chicks can eat 10-20 tiny fish a day and that the brood may consist of up to seven eggs, you can calculate how busy the parents are.

If you’ve been lucky enough to sit in a hide where a kingfisher site is close, you’ll notice that after each feed the adult takes a quick dip, I can only imagine what the nest site must be like after a month of feeding hundreds of fish to the family!

There are very few images of chance encounters, most pictures are taken from sites where they are known to feed. Quite often you’ll come across a perch that’s been placed to try and lure the bird to where it can be watched or photographed.

Most Wildlife Trust or RSPB reserves where kingfishers are in residence will have a few well placed perches so the public can get a great view (if they turn up) – Lackford Lakes, Minsmere, Cley and Sculthorpe to name a few.

If you really want to grab a shot like this one, then you will need to seek out a specialist hide. There are a few in East Anglia, on private land and set up especially with the photographer in mind.

Mine were captured at a fish farm on the Suffolk/Essex border – a two-person hide overlooking a pool with portholes that are either at water or perch level or in between.

The birds are almost resident in the area. I guess being a fish farm they know a good meal when they see one. The beauty of these private sites is that you don’t need exotic glass. A 300mm lens will suffice or place a shorter lens closer and use a remote to trigger the camera, anything is possible.

If you want to find out more about the hide or for one-to-one tuition email Max on max@suffolkbass.co.uk

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