Sunday, 8 November 2009

Kingfishers on the River Dee

I was walking with a friend along this stretch of the River Dee just below Farndon when, as I was trying to photograph this tree's reflection in the water, a kingfisher went winging swiftly past. I didn't get it in the picture however; kingfishers are too quick! In fact, despite its striking brilliance of blue and orange it's often by its speedy flight or rapid movement that I pick it out before I register the colour.

I walk regularly in a local nature park, Caldy Valley, and for some time in one recent winter a kingfisher was haunting the small stream there; I had a number of sightings of it. Then it vanished for months. They have very short lives, apparently, so perhaps this one had died. But yesterday I was walking there and had the great luck to see a pair of them, perched on a low branch over the water. I could just make out the narrow stripe of blue down their backs in the gloom beneath the overhanging hawthorns and willows and then they were gone.

I see bullfinches in this park too, and was very pleased to read in Birds magazine that their numbers are recovering somewhat: the bullfinch is now on the amber list, not the red list, of endangered species. When I was a child they were a common sight - gardeners and fruit growers used to be enraged to see them in the orchards or soft fruit beds. How different now: it's a serious and horribly sobering thought that they need protection. As does so much of our wildlife.

I often come across herons too, one stepping out right in front of me as it crossed from one tract of water to another. It's astonishing if you look down lists of titles of poems how many poems there are to the kingfisher and the heron.

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