From the start of March I have been following a Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) couple, with a few photographic goals in mind. I had discovered this kingfisher couple last year, but at that time I lacked the knowledge, skill and gear to photograph these marvellous birds. I started to search the internet for information about there habitat, behaviour etc. This year I came well prepared (both in gear and knowledge) and with a clear idea in mind.
Goals I had at the start of (and/or added during) my kingfisher project:
- On a branch
- With a fish
- Both male and female on one branch
- Male giving a fish to the female (Courtship display)
- Juvenile Kingfishers
- In flight
- Diving into the water
- Coming out of the water with/without fish.
In order to not disturb the kingfishers I was making use of a hide, this way I was “invisible” for the birds. The first hour I had seen the kingfishers, but they were perching in a more distant branch, then the perch I had selected to photograph them from. After a while, they got used to hide (and my presence), the female kingfisher was the first to make its move towards the perch. When she landed he immediately started to brush it feathers, this event continued for about 10 minutes, then she flew away. Not much later she returned with a fish.
As time passed my standards went up and I became more selective. Sometimes I waited hours without a single photo taken.
After these static photo’s I wanted more and tried to capture the kingfishers in flight, just before landing on the branch. At first the light was decent enough to get high enough shutter speeds in combination with high iso (1600-3200). With passing of time the leafs on the tree’s, surrounding the place, grew and obscured the light hitting the forest floor. This proved to be a more challenging task and I have not yet completed this one with full satisfaction, leaving me with at least one task for next year.
In the time that I’ve spend with the kingfishers I have seen the male giving a fish to the female three times. The first time happened to far away to photograph, the second time was a bit closer, but still far away, and the light was very scarce as well. The third time however……
The male flew onto a branch 5-6 meter in front of me, a few seconds later the female arrived. The male was holding a fish in its beak and the female was looking towards the male. Then the male slowly walked towards the female and gently layed the fish in the female beak. The female slapped the fish against the branch and devoured it. After eating the fish both flew away.
I quickly checked the back of my camera and “most likely” got a smile from ear to ear. That was another box ticked of my wish list. Most of the time
Sadly I didn’t get the chance to witness mating, so I will have to leave that for next year. During the time of hatching the eggs (and raising the chicks) the adults were catching fish to feed to the juveniles and landed on the selected branch all the time. Whilst the eggs were hatched and the chicks had grew a little, the adults started to dig a new hole for the second nest. After a few weeks the juveniles left the nest, sadly this happened in a weekend of bad weather and a lot of rain.
The process of mating, building a nest, hatching and raising the chicks is, right as we “speak”, going for its 4th round. From the previous nests that have been hatched I have had a single juvenile in front of my camera, leaving another box unchecked.
In the progress of making these photo’s I became more aware of one of the short comings of the lens used for this project. The nikon 300mm F/4 is a good quality lens, but the lack of light in the forest gave me very slow shutter speeds with high iso. When I got the opportunity to purchase a 300mm f/2.8 I didn’t hesitate to grab my chance, more about this gear upgrade can be seen at here. With this new lens I, coincidence or not, made my best kingfisher photo during this project.
Now a few months later my project has come to a pause. The leafs on the tree tops are blocking all the light, making it very hard to produce photo’s of good quality. I do occasionally go by to see how everything is evolving, but I’m not taking photo’s at this moment. Looking at the goals I had at start I made a few, but there are still some left for next year.
Goals review of my kingfisher project:
- On a branch (✔)
- With a fish(✔)
- Both male and female on one branch(✔)
- Male giving a fish to the female (Courtship display)(✔)
- Mating (X)
- Juvenile Kingfishers(X)
- In flight(X)
- Diving into the water(X)
- Coming out of the water with/without fish.(X)
I hope U have enjoyed my little project as much as I did, next year it will be continued.
More photo’s can be seen in the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) collection.