November - Warrens

Saturday November 14th 2015

Kate stops play ...

Another weekend, another miserable rainy, grey day ! I know it's November and this is to be expected, but it is still disappointing. I am desperate to get that clear, crisp sunny day since I have moved the location of the hide, but each weekend since the move has been terrible.

Today the weather report was for warnings of the tail end of what was hurricane Kate. No longer a hurricane but still a huge low depression that would be dumping a possible 200mm worth of rain over the UK, mainly in the North.

I arrived at the hide at 8.20 AM, I set up and got into position, I was hoping I wouldn't be waiting around 4 hours for my first visit like I was last week. Thankfully, the wait today was just 10 minutes before the female arrived onto the perch.

I wasn't even aware the Kingfisher had showed up, she had taken myself by surprise and had flown on a high perch which she normally doesn't use.

I had just turned the lens to the Kingfisher when she had quickly spotted her target and dived, she was gone from the cameras viewfinder. 

I heard the typical thud of the Kingfisher hitting the stream, I hit the remote shutter for the camera sitting in the stream which captured the Kingfisher returning from her dive, complete with a fish in her bill.

I looked out of the hide to see where she had gone too, she was sitting on a low perch proudly displaying her catch.

The female didn't hang around this morning, she barely stunned her prey before quickly swallowing and flying down stream. It was well over an hour before my next visit, and it was great to see it was from the male this time.

It probably sounds an odd thing to say, but I prefer the visits from the male, he is more animated and tends to make longer visits. I have been following this Kingfisher throughout the summer and he is very relaxed and totally ignores the camera clicking away.

True to form, the male just hangs out for a while even though he is out of his territory. After 15 minutes the male notices something in the reasonably fast flowing water below him. He reacts by excitedly moving too and fro up and down the perch, quickly shuffling his feet sideways and standing up all tall and thin. The male is always great to watch.

He dives and is successful, unusually he takes his catch on the wing and disappears down stream and out of sight. I am guessing this is because he is trespassing on the females patch.

The weather is starting to turn and the heavy clouds are forming into the threatened rain as reported. The light which was already poor was fading so I was thinking of packing up early, but the female turned up again and appeared on the low perch.

The female is quite the opposite to the male in personality, she is more no nonsense and direct with her intentions. She is always straight down to business and gets straight into hunting mode. I have identified a perch a little way down stream (still in view from the hide but out of reach from the camera) where she prefers to spend her time resting.

It's only a matter of a minute before she has dived and is back on the perch, every dive today has resulted in a catch, the accuracy has been very impressive.

It has started to rain and the wind has also started to pick up. I watched as the female also carried her catch to her favoured perch a little way up stream, I could just see her sheltering from the wind and rain and consuming her meal. 

I take this opportunity to leave the hide and pack up. This will be my last visit to the Kingfisher hide for a couple of weeks as I am on holiday next weekend ... but I will be blogging on something with a little more bite next time around (with some luck !) as I head out on a SCUBA diving adventure.

Saturday November 7th 2015

A tough cookie in stormy weathers ... 

I have been watching the weather reports all week for this coming weekend, and to be fair to the BBC, they have been symbolising my home area with a big black cloud with multiple rain drops since the Monday before. To add to this, midweek they even added an exclamation mark which was a weather warning for stormy winds and heavy rain ... great !

During the week our village fell victim to the thick fog and mist that caused problems around the country. Whilst walking our dog, the stream did look quite atmospheric, shrouded out of sight by the mist.

My head was telling me to give the Kingfisher hide a miss this weekend because of the poor weather report, but my heart was telling me to still go for a visit. 

It was already raining when I got up and headed out to walk the dog at 6.30 this morning, it was a real Autumnal November morning.

I headed down to the stream a couple of hours later, it was 8.30 AM. I had set up and was sitting in the hide, the wind had now started to really whip across the open and exposed fields. The flimsy frame of the hide felt like it was going to lift off the ground and fly off, even with myself sitting in it.

I sit back and wait for the Kingfisher, the wind buffeting the hide and the rain bouncing off the canvas style roof. I wait, 9.30 goes by, 10.30 goes by, 11.30 goes by, and 12.30 is here, four long hours of staring at an empty perch. I was thinking I should of listened to my head and stayed home, the weather had also deteriorated.

Then, from downstream the Kingfisher arrives, it's the female. 

I was on the verge of calling it a day and packing up and going home. It's been a long time since the Kingfisher has left me waiting so long before paying me a visit, but I am sure it has been the adverse weather that has played a role in this delay.

The female takes her position up on a low perch, seeking as much protection from the wind from the steep sides of the stream. The protection this gives her is minimal to be honest, the Kingfisher is being buffeting around, at times she is really struggling to maintain her position on the perch.

She sits and waits for a break in the wind that will enable her to make a dive. I can see the Kingfisher has spotted her target and her stare is fixated at a single spot of the stream below her. The timing is good, the wind has given her a brief break of intensity and she has taken her chance, she has dived.

She leaves the perch at lightening speed, propelling herself with a strong single beat of her wings. The Kingfishers eyes fixed on her target, her bill slightly open in anticipation of snatching her prey, she tucks her wings in to make herself stream-lined and to reduce drag when she impacts the water.

I can hear the sound of her hitting the stream, a fraction of a second later she is returning to her perch ... she has missed her target !

She returns back to her low perch, empty billed and nothing to show for her hard work. It is going to be difficult for her to be successful hunting in such difficult conditions. 

The Kingfisher decides to quickly dive again , taking advantage of the very slight ease in the intensity of the wind and rain. 

Success ! She appears from the dive with a nice sized minnow in her beak. I feel pleased for her that she has managed to make a catch and can now eat.

She returns to her perch with her catch, the wind has suddenly whipped up again, the intensity is blowing her around and she is struggling to maintain her posture. Her catch is still wriggling frantically in her bill so she is having a lot to contend with. 

Her plumage looks like it has a 1000 volts going through it as she is being pummelled by the elements, her tail feathers open to help her balance.

A change of direction in the wind enables her to compose herself, she takes full advantage of this and swallows her catch after just a single swipe of stunning her prey.

The Kingfisher sits motionless for a few seconds whilst her wriggly meal works its way into her stomach. With a high pitched call that is mostly drowned out by the swaying trees, she takes flight down stream.

I am surprised I haven't seen the male today, I know this is out of his territory but I have seen him visit with a little more frequency lately.

It's a full hour before the female returns, the weather still remains horrendous, it is now at its most intense.

I learnt something new today, I learnt that Kingfishers are seriously 'tough cookies', more so then I had ever realised. The female returned to her perch, for the next 10 minutes we were blasted with strong wind, 50 mph plus. The rain was coming across the fields in horizontal torrents, I was holding onto the camera so that it didn't get pulled over. I expected for the Kingfisher to of taken cover, but she was still here, facing the weather head on. She was getting hit with the full force of everything that the elements could throw at her, and she fronted it out.

I was mightily impressed. After 10 minutes the storm passed over, it was approaching 3.00 PM and I could now see a break in the clouds, a blue sky was finally breaking through. 

It was a shame really as it was almost time to pack up and leave, just as the weather was improving. 

I have time to witness a final successful dive, she displays her catch to the camera proudly in her bill. This time, she has the luxury to consume her meal at her own leisure, turning herself to face into what is only now, just a strong breeze.  

The female stays with me for another 15 minutes before heading off to patrol her territory down stream.

It was a slow start to the day and not the best weather to capture images. But, I can't complain after witnessing the tough conditions the Kingfisher is willing to endure every single day.

Sunday November 1st 2015.

The 'Golden Hour' ...

For those that read my blog on a regular basis (thank you !), you know I tend to start each entry rambling on about the weather. Possibly because it plays a big part on the days events,  and also the fact that I sit out in the elements for long periods, so I am a little weather obsessive (I think it's an English trait too).

So today is November 1st, and we are breaking records for the warmest November day on record in the UK. From a grey foggy start to the day which was a little stubborn to shift, the afternoon has blossomed into a warm, sunny, beautiful day. More akin to September.

This weekend has been busy, I have not visited the stream since Thursday evening, which I normally briefly visit every day. With work and family commitments, the shortening of the days and a few other factors, it's been an abnormally long time since my last visit.

In fact, I had no plans to visit the stream the whole weekend, but I managed to finish what I had to do earlier then I thought. It is now almost 3pm and I have an hour spare ! It's glorious sunshine, the sun is just starting to lower into the horizon, so I grab a camera and head down to the hide.

I quickly snap the camera onto the gimbal head of the tripod, and sit back and wait. The stream is bathed in a stunning, warm, rich golden glow from the fading sun to the left of the hide. 

I have just 60 minutes, and 35 of those precious minutes have passed before suddenly a flash of blue appears from down stream and arrives onto a perch. It's a male, the male I have been shooting further down stream during the summer and he is out of his own territory being here ... but he looks stunning.

I have followed this particular Kingfisher since he was quite young, but this is the first time I have seen him since I moved location a month ago. This Kingfisher is super relaxed with the shutter noise of the camera, he is really familiar with the sound and pays me very little attention. Where as, the female I usually get, which my hide is now in her territory, she is very wary of the camera and is still a little jittery of the shutter noise. 

The light is fading and the Kingfisher starts adopting the hunting posture, eyes down looking into the water below him, watching for any signs of movement.

He dives twice in quick succession but misses both times, he returns back to the post each time with an empty bill. It is very rare for him to miss twice in both strikes, but he is not deterred and third time lucky, he pulls a bullhead from the stream.

He carries his prey to a small perch below me which is just out of sight from the camera, but I can see him stubbornly banging his prey against his perch before consuming.

He returns back to his perch, the final minutes of the sun light seems more intense, lighting the Kingfisher with a warm golden hue. 

With a sudden glance up stream from the Kingfisher, he has been rumbled, he has been spotted encroaching onto the females territory. As quick as he arrived, he is chased down stream by an aggressive display from the female, along with a high pitched warning call. Both Kingfishers are gone, so with my one hour up, I quickly leave the hide before I am also spotted.

Walking back along the farm fields to my car, I notice the tips of the wheat already breaking the surface from the recently sown fields. I look forward to watching the cycle of the crop growth again over winter and into Spring, before the fields yields into a golden carpet of wheat that covers our village.

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