As you’ve probably noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time on the river watching the kingfisher family, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching the other wildlife that’s about.
The local dippers seem to have a great year in terms of successful breeding (blog post to follow) and there are usually two about close to where I sit, and this evening I was treated to one of them catching a fish. I spotted it as it flew directly toward me before veering off and landing on a large rock to my right with the fish in its beak.
I’ve seen a lot of fish despatched by the kingfishers recently and the dipper attempted much the same method, just not quite as adeptly!
It took quite a few attempts with the dipper dropping the fish on a number of occasions.
I’m not sure what type of fish it was that the dipper had caught (if you know please tell me) but to say it was a slimey one might be a bit of an understatement!
Eventually it got the fish either stunned or killed and it went straight down the hatch all in one.
Conventional wisdom tells us that once the juvenile kingfishers fledge from the nest there is a 3-4 day window where the parents will teach the young how to fish, where to fish and will keep them stocked up on tiddlers while they learn the ropes. Then when those learning days are over the parents will aggressively move the juveniles along chasing them off the territory. Here’s a quote from the RSPB website “Once out of the nest, the young are fed for only four days before the adults drive them out of the territory and start the next brood.”
Last week that window opened for me when the local kingfishers fledged, but sometimes what you read isn’t always what happens!
I first noticed the juvenile were out on Monday evening, The river was very noisy with calling kingfishers as they flew up and down but they didn’t settle and appeared to be just following the adult bird. On Tuesday lunchtime I got my first view as the three youngsters settled opposite me, spaced out on seperate posts noisily calling as the adults flew past.
But on Wednesday night I was in kingfisher heaven. The juveniles were dotted around on various perchs and the male was around keeping an eye on them before disappearing on a fishing expedition.
On his return he landed with a fish and the three young quickly flew in to try and be the one that grabbed the meal. For a few minutes I had the amazing sight of four kingfishers sat directly in front of me!!
The male kept this up for a couple of hours and despite the rain I was mesmerised. I’d read about the 3-4 day window so I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by, after all they would be gone by Saturday, wouldn’t they?
I sat on the riverbank at every opportunity and began to notice that in none of my photo’s or on any occasion had I seen the female. It seems as though the male has raised these three on his own.
As the juveniles became more confident I watched them attempt to fish for themselves, repeatedly diving but only occasionally coming up with a reward. But they were learning and if they were to be chased off soon, it was a lesson they had to learn as quickly as possible.
As always it was a gamble as to which side of the river to sit on but as the days went on it didn’t really matter and the perchs I had put out earlier were in constant use for preening, attempted fishing or waiting for the next meal.
Saturday came and I was treated to another spectacular day but surely they’d be gone soon, the 3/4 day window must be closing.
Yesterday was a week after fledging and they were still around and still being fed by the male.
So it seems nature doesn’t always conform to what the books and experts say.
It may be that the loss of the female has meant the males paternal instinct has overridden the need to chase them off, and with no partner to try for another brood has meant he will tolerate the juveniles for a bit longer. I do hope so. As many of you know, I’m a bit obsessed with these beautiful birds and the longer they’re around the happier I’ll be. As soon as they’re gone the riverside will be a lot quieter place.
Until next year!!
Woohoo look at me!!
As mentioned in a previous blog I’m always looking for potential perches where I think a kingfisher “should” sit. In practice it rarely seems to work so I have recently put out some perches to see what would happen. I know kingfishers are curious and have heard they will quite quickly investigate new perches. I guess with the ever changing geography of rivers and riverbanks, perches get washed away and new ones arrive so they need to investigate.
The first one I put out was soon being used but I hadn’t quite thought through how or where I would be able to sit in order to take any pictures! So last Sunday I tried again and thoroughly considered my options. Fingers crossed.
Monday night the male landed on the new perch before I’d switched my camera on and then swiftly departed.
Tuesday night with camera switched on, the male arrived and departed before I could hit the shutter!!
This morning bingo!
Not only was I in situ and ready he didn’t seem to even notice I was there. He sat and had a good look around seeming at one point to hear me and gave me a stare.
He then proceeded to groom himself and have a good scratch,
I couldn’t believe my luck,and when he finally flew off I duly thanked him and set off for home. I’d been there less than an hour and got some of the best shots I’ve taken. Now all I want is the family to join him.
It won’t be long till these guys will be heading back to Africa.
This jackdaw was clearing insects from this dozing sheep.