At 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, I was deeply involved in reading a novel when I was disturbed from my reverie by a familiar ‘peeep, peeep’ sort of sound in the garden. I carefully made my way to the window, raised my binoculars and scanned the area around the pond. It was then that I spotted him: a spectacular male kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) in all his flamboyant finery, sitting atop the Weeping willow watching the fish. I had no sooner identified him than, with a flash of turquoise and orange, he was gone.
We have enjoyed regular kingfisher visits in previous years but this little fellow was the first to appear in the garden for a long time (perhaps due to those two successive harsh winters we experienced). I listened to his ringing call for several minutes without sighting him, and then all became silent.
About 20 minutes later, I looked up from my book and he was back in the same spot, perched motionless on an overhanging branch. He remained in that position for several seconds before plunging into the water with his dagger-like bill thrust forward. At the very moment he hit the surface with a splash, our youngest dog came thundering across the lawn in hot pursuit of a Grey squirrel. The kingfisher bobbed back up, flicked his tail and whirred off at great speed in the direction of the woods. I scrutinised the garden until it was almost dark but I didn’t see him again that evening.
The rain poured down incessantly on Thursday. Our feeders were full of all the usual characters but there was no glimpse or sound of the kingfisher. By dusk I felt quite downcast and thought it unlikely we would see him again.
There was a brief respite from the showers this morning – indeed, the sun was peeking through the trees by 9 o’clock. It was about this time that I heard a short sharp whistle, looked towards the Weeping willow and spotted the kingfisher back on his perch. Then in a fleeting flash of colour he was off again.
He has remained in and around the garden all day – despite periods of heavy rain – so I’m hopeful that he has clocked our thriving pond and decided to stick around for the rich pickings. Perhaps he has a nest nearby and is taking food to a female sitting on eggs. Or he may have young ones to provide for. Alternatively, he might be seeking a mate – it certainly isn’t too late in the season for him to court a female and raise a brood.
After centuries of polluted waterways, drained wetlands and vain ladies utilising the Common kingfisher’s wonderful electric blue plumage to adorn their fancy hats, it’s nothing short of miraculous that this species has survived on mainland Britain.
Due to its depletion, this amazing bird is quite rightly protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. We are greatly privileged to have it visit our land and I’ll be keeping a close eye on our new male to see what he does next.