Sunday, November 23, 2014


No bird common to the Patuxent has been more difficult for me to film than the Belted Kingfisher. They are forever sneaking by me behind my back, and laughing about it once they are safely past. I just happened to spot this one coming straight at me through the fog the other morning. When he spotted me, he let out with a maniacal laugh, turned inland, then doubled back and decided to race by between me and the shoreline. He laughed again after he was certain he had made it safely past me.

When kingfishers are on the move, they strike me as having ingested waaay too much caffeine. Their flight, the attitude they display, vocalizations - everything appears sped up. They are one of the few bird species I know of where the female is more colorful than the male. The rusty colored belt marks this bird as a female. Males do not have the orange coloration on their chest.

Their favored way of fishing is to find a high, open branch overlooking the water where they can spot small fish. When they spot one, they plunge dive, usually chattering as they do so. Their heads appear to be slightly too large for their bodies, giving them the impression of being a little top heavy.

I have seen few birds (other than, perhaps, the pileated woodpecker) with wing beats as deep as a kingfisher. You can see the wings nearly touch beneath them as they fly.

This muffed shot represents the best chance I ever had to film a kingfisher actively fishing. Unfortunately, the camera was not up to the shot, although this lens on my current camera would have been adequate. But, I also got excited when I pressed the shutter and jiggled the camera slightly. It is something you have to consciously tell yourself in these situations - to control your movements - especially the little finger on the shutter button.

I was surprised when this female started fishing so close to where I was standing. She was aware of my presence. They are usually a little more shy. The open river does not provide a good stage for filming their diving. A more confined location on a pond or small creek would furnish the opportunity to take better diving pictures.

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