Blue Blur

Half-collared Kingfisher (Alcedo semitorquata)

While crossing a low level bridge over the Elands River, south of Machadadorp on the eastern Highveld of South Africa, my eye was caught by a dazzling blue blur that skimmed across the water surface. A kingfisher, no doubt about it. I parked on the other side of the bridge and climbed out of my car. A small track followed the course of the stony stream, and I found myself a place to sit and wait.

About five minutes later, a striking Half-collared Kingfisher announced its arrival back on the scene with a sharp, piping whistle. It landed in full view on a rounded pebble, looked about, then took a splash-bath in the clear, cold water. The iridescent turquoise crown and tiny scarlet toes gleamed in the early morning light, as it darted off downstream.

Moments later it was back, this time with a small fish in its bill. Then, to my amazement, it flew towards me and disappeared! There must be a burrow on the bank below my hiding place. Once the kingfisher had emerged and gone off on another fishing trip, I quickly switched banks and found another spot to watch the action. Typical of all riverside kingfishers, the nest burrow is excavated into a vertical bank and – if active – easily detected by the white droppings on its lip. For the next twenty minutes or so, I watched the pair as they delivered a steady supply of fingerlings to their nestlings. Fascinating to watch, was how the adults emerged from the burrow backwards and then performed a neat mid-air back-flip before flying off.

Machadadorp, South Africa, October 2008

Burrow in the bank


About Duncan Butchart

Duncan Butchart is interested in all aspects of the natural world, with a particular fascination for birds and their ecological relationships.
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3 Responses to Blue Blur

  1. Beth says:

    Wow! Duncan, these paintings are really fantastic. It is making my day, getting a little bird-watching done through your eyes.

  2. Kate Barnett says:

    A delight to wake up and get this titbit this am. Fascinating to read and look at. Tx

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