Last month, I wrote about the reintroduction of the rare Marbled Duck to the Clot, and the steps which have been taken to improve the wetland environment for this species. This has also had positive knock-on effects on other species, and this month we are looking at one of the most spectacular birds to be found in our area – the Kingfisher.
If you had been visiting the Clot more than three or four years ago, a Kingfisher would have been an uncommon sight – indeed, in more than fifteen years of watching birds in the Clot, I had only seen them on two or three occasions. These days, you are almost certain to see one, even if it is only the usual sighting of a tiny blue and orange exocet missile skimming low across the water in front of you for a few seconds.
But patience pays dividends! Sometimes you can watch them in flight, and if you are lucky they will perch in the open on one of the reedbeds opposite you. This is where a pair of binoculars will come in handy; when they land in view they may stay there for several minutes before darting off again. One thing to look for is a patch of orange on the lower bill – if it has that it is a female bird, if the bill is all-black as in my photograph you are looking at a male. Other than that, the sexes are identical. You can also listen out for their high piping call, which is often the first indication that they are about.
The good news about their colonisation of the Clot is that it proves the quality of the ecosystem. Kingfishers are good indicators of clear and high quality water, and it is now certain that these birds are breeding in the Clot whereas before they were absent. Their nests will be holes in waterside banks, where they will lay two broods of 5 to 7 eggs, but sometimes up to 10. Not all of the chicks will make it to adulthood, but enough will survive to make them a welcome resident in the area. In chatting to fellow birders, we estimate that there might be up to ten breeding pairs in the Clot.
They feed on small fish of course, but what is not so well known is that they take insects too, such as dragonfly larvae and water beetles, as well as aquatic shrimps. They don’t have the problem that their northern brothers and sisters have of the water freezing over, so remain faithful to the local area while it can still support them
Last month I was sitting in the hide at the Charco Pool watching a Kingfisher perched in the opposite reedbed. An older Spanish gentleman turned up, and enquired of me “Martin Pescador?” I was able to point out where the bird was sitting, and the expression of delight on his face was an absolute picture. Kingfishers just get people that way!
You can see more photos of our local wildlife by visiting https://marketheridge.smugmug.com/