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Kingfishers - through the keyhole

It doesn't seem to matter how many times you've had the privilege of spending the day watching Kingfishers going about their business, the thrill never seems to wane.

I offer a photography workshop for wildlife photographers wanting a close encounter with one of the UK's most colourful and acrobatic characters.

One of the best places to get up close and personal with these amazing birds, is Tom Robinson's Wildlife Photography Hides location near Bourne in Lincolnshire.

Nestled in an unlikely wedge of land between a mainline railway line and a small river, Tom has created a wonderful pond where the Kingfishers have been quick to use the supplementary feeding on offer, as part of their natural feeding regime.

With talented photographer and good friend Mark Williams and new Client and jolly good chap Kevin Hatley keeping me company, we had only just got settled when the first Kingy darted in to say 'hello', joined almost immediately by her mate.

The female Kingfisher has a red/orange lower mandible to her beak, with the males beak being all black.

There are some basic techniques to learn to capture the Kingy's in action and Kevin was soon up to speed and getting some great results, albeit I had to be quick in helping him, as the action was non-stop.

I know Kevin was really looking forward to the workshop and it's always a joy when your Client looks at the back of their camera and is so obviously delighted to see an image that they had always wanted - great fun and very rewarding.

What we didn't know until we turned up that morning, was that Tom had heard from the County Ringing team who were coming to ring the brood in the nearby nest, that day!

Tom holds a Schedule 1 licence and the Ringers hold licenses that enable them to directly interact with the nest and to ring the youngsters.

It was under these very strict provisions that we were allowed to watch them at work and both observe and take photographs, as they went through the process.

They worked carefully but quickly, to minimise disruption, so we had to be quick too if we wanted to record the event.

We were allowed the very briefest of moments to peer inside the nest before the chicks were removed for ringing, grabbing a shot in the couple of seconds permitted by the Ringers.

What a privilege!

There are no other circumstances in which this would be allowed, so very many thanks to the ringing team for explaining how they completed the process as they worked.

Kingfisher numbers are under pressure in the UK. The ringing process allows scientists and wildlife organisations to monitor the population movement and numbers and to find ways to support their place in the ecosystem.

Removed gently from the nest, the Ringers carefully attached the identification rings to the chicks tiny legs.

Here (below), the Ringer showed us the youngsters feathers, still covered in a waxy sheath which only falls away just before the young birds fledge. In this case, they estimated fledging was going to be another week or so away.

I was really surprised how calm the little birds were, sitting patiently on the Ringers bag, waiting to be rejoined with their siblings safely back in the nest.

What a little beauty!

The whole process was over in a matter of minutes and we retreated back to the hide, leaving the nearby nest returned to its quiet isolation.

We needn't have worried that the ringing process might have disrupted our day, as the adults were soon back fishing to feed their brood, over the rest of the afternoon.

The May weather was pretty mixed that day and the other pond residents endured dark skies, brisk winds and some torrential downpours, with both Little Egret and a Zen like Grey Heron, seemingly oblivious to the intemperate conditions.

So there we are - just when you thought you'd seen Kingfishers from every angle, a chance diary coincidence provided what I'm pretty sure will be a once in a lifetime peek inside the nest of Kingfishers.

A truly wonderful experience and thanks must go to the professionalism and care shown by both Tom and ringing team, for their close supervision and for sharing their knowledge and expertise with 3 grateful wildlife enthusiasts.

Here's to the next Client day and more time at this magical location.


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