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Posts Tagged ‘Belted Kingfisher’

During the hot, humid days of mid-summer, I often hear the sounds of birds, but rarely see them. Although I may be out in the blazing sun, most of the birds seem to use common sense and take shelter in the shade of the trees.

Last week as I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I heard the unmistakable call of a kingfisher and caught a glimpse of it skimming across the water of a small pond. I was a bit surprised when it chose briefly to perch in a small tree overhanging the water. I was a long way away, but had a clear line of sight and captured this image of the female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I can tell that it is a female because I can see a reddish-colored band across its chest that the male lacks.

Many of you know that I photograph birds more frequently during the winter months, when insects disappear and the lack of foliage makes it easier to spot the birds. Throughout the year, however, I try to be ready in case a bird decides to be cooperative and poses for me.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It often feels like Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) are taunting me. They boldly advertise their presence with a distinctive rattling call, but keep their distance or fly away quickly before I can spot them. I dream of spotting one at close range and getting some shots before it is aware of my presence.

Well, my dream did not not come true this past Monday, but I did manage to get some shots of a female Belted Kingfisher in flight while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I took the shots at pretty long range as the kingfisher was moving from perch to perch in the distant trees.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Every monarch needs a crown and this female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) seemed to be wearing a leafy one yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Maybe I should be calling her a Belted Queenfisher. 🙂

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) are normally very skittish and it seems like they always choose to perch in distant trees. This past weekend, however, a female Belted Kingfisher flew to some trees that were a lot closer than usual and I was able to capture these shot. The images don’t exactly fill they frame, but they do show a lot of the cool details that make the kingfisher so special. In case you are curious, it is really easy to identify the gender of Belted Kingfishers—only the females have the rust-colored stripes on the chest, one of the few cases in which a female of a bird species is more colorful than the male.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) and a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) seemed to be eyeing each other with intense curiosity this past Friday at Huntley Meadows Park when they both chose to occupy the same tree at the same time.

Redheads have a mysterious attraction, it seems, in the bird world as well as in the human world.

Belted Kingfisher and Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spent a considerable amount of time one morning earlier this month at Huntley Meadows Park trying to get some shots of this skittish female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). It was almost impossible to get really close, so I had to rely on my long telephoto zoom lens.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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With stealth and patience I can get relatively close to some birds, but Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) remain elusive, skittish, and difficult to capture. I was fortunate to get some long distance shots of a handsome male kingfisher (males have no chestnut-colored stripe on their chests) last weekend in the trees overlooking Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spent a fair amount of time yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park watching a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), one of my favorite birds. She was perched on a broken-off tree a pretty good distance away and there was no way that I could get any closer, since there was water between the boardwalk on which I was standing and that tree.

The kingfisher remained perched for quite some time, so I had plenty of time to steady myself and adjust settings until I was relatively content with some of my shots. What I really wanted to do, though, was to capture the kingfisher. I knew that eventually the kingfisher would dive into the water and I waited. Kingfishers don’t give any real warning when they are ready to dive, so I tried to remain alert and ready, even though I knew the chances of me capturing this fast-moving bird in flight were slim.

The kingfisher dove several times and I did manage to capture a few ok images of her flight toward the water. My favorite shot, however, is the final one here in which she is flying out of the water with what looks to be a small fish.

It was a nice catch for both of us.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a cloudy, misty afternoon yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, this female Belted Kingfisher ( Megaceryle alcyon) couldn’t make up her mind where to perch, flying from one rotted tree to another in the marshland. I was thrilled to get this shot when she took off from one of her perches.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was on a biking/walking trail that follows Cameron Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River, when I heard the unmistakable  rattling call of a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). As I moved through the vegetation to investigate, I spotted a kingfisher perched on a rock jutting out of the water. I had my Canon SX50 zoomed out to its maximum length, but it wasn’t enough—I needed to get closer.

As I made my way slowly down a steep slope, my footing gave way and I unceremoniously slid for a short distance on my back side. No surprisingly I spooked the kingfisher. What was surprising was that the kingfisher did not fly up into the trees, but instead he flew to a more distant smaller rock that was barely bigger than he was. (You can tell that it is a male because, unlike the female, he does not have chestnut stripe across his chest.)

The kingfisher soon took to the air and was joined by another one. They proceeded to fly back and forth over a portion of the stream, calling out loudly the entire time. They didn’t actually buzz me, but they did fly in my general direction a couple of times before veering off. What was going on?

I got a somewhat blurry shot of the second kingfisher, a female, that confirmed my suspicion that this was a couple. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, “During breeding season the Belted Kingfisher pair defends a territory against other kingfishers. A territory along a stream includes just the streambed and the vegetation along it, and averages 0.6 mile long. The nest burrow is usually in a dirt bank near water. The tunnel slopes upward from the entrance, perhaps to keep water from entering the nest. Tunnel length ranges from 1 to 8 feet.”

This behavior suggests to me that there could be baby kingfishers in the area. I certainly didn’t see any babies and suspect that a nest would probably be on the opposite side of the stream from where I took these photos, an area that is more remote and inacessible.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I keep trying without much success to get a close shot of a Belted Kingfisher, but they are very skittish and always seem to be perched on the opposite bank of the stream or pond from where I am standing.

This past weekend I was happy to get a clear (albeit distant) look at this beautiful female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) at my favorite marshland park. The kingfisher seemed to be taking a break from fishing and spent most of her time looking to the left and to the right rather than down at the water.

I’ve spotted a kingfisher before on this perch, but can’t get any closer from this side of the pond. Occasionally I will trek to the other side of the pond and hope that eventually I will be able to sneak closer to this elusive bird from that direction.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Recently, while exploring the streams in the remote back areas of Huntley Meadows Park, I have heard the unmistakable call of a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) several times. Yesterday, on a warm spring-like day, I finally got a clear view of this beautiful female.

As I have mentioned before in some earlier postings, Belted Kingfishers are unusual in the bird world—the females are more colorful than the males. Females have a blue and a chestnut band across their white breasts and the males have only a blue band.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Where do birds spend their nights? I was surprised one recent early morning to see a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a fallen tree not very far above water level. Why was the kingfisher there?

I am pretty sure the kingfisher wasn’t hunting—there wasn’t enough elevation for a dive. I wonder if it had spent the night there. Maybe the kingfisher has a fear of heights, which would be a terrible occupational hazard. Perhaps the kingfisher simply wanted to check out the scenery from a different perspective.

Whatever the reason for the unusual perch, it was nice to get a clear look at a Belted Kingfisher, even if it was from a long way off.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do birds choose the perches they use? Several times last month I saw a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched in the early morning on this monitoring equipment sticking out of the water. Somehow I had the impression that the kingfisher was spending the nights on that perch.

Perhaps it’s more comfortable (or maybe safer) than the surrounding trees. Whatever the case, it makes for an interesting juxtaposition of natural and man-made elements in the image.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted a male Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) yesterday, I was really happy, because I have not seen a male in several years. He was pretty far away and I having a hard time getting a sharp shot, so I decided to switch to manual focus.

Just after I had switched, the kingfisher made a long shallow dive off of the rotten tree on which he was perched. Instinctively I tried to track the fast-moving bird as I frantically tried to focus. Not surprisingly, most of my shots were out of focus, but one came out pretty well. It shows the kingfisher just above the surface of the water with what appears to be a fish in his mouth. (You may want to click on the image to get a better look at the kingfisher.)

Belted Kingfisher

A bit later in the day, I took this shot of the male Belted Kingfisher on the same perch that he had been on earlier. He seemed to be in a good mood and almost looked like he was singing. Unlike the female, which has both a chestnut and a blue stripe or her chest, the male Belted Kingfisher has only the blue stripe.

Belted Kingfisher

The kingfisher was happy and I was overjoyed with my shots. It was a wonderful day.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the distinctive look and bright colors of the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) and was thrilled to spot this female on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

She was initially perched on a rotten tree trunk in a meadow, which is actually a dried-up pond—the water levels at the marsh are perilously low at the moment.  Before I could get a close shot, I managed to spook her and she flew to the higher perch that you see in the first image of this posting. The second image shows her in her initial position.

I like the way that the dark leaves provide a backdrop that draws our attention to the kingfisher in the first shot, but also like the softer quality of the second shot, with the grass and the out-of-focus treeline.

Unlike in most bird species, the female Belted Kingfisher is more colorful than the male—she has a rust-colored stripe that is absent in the male.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Instinctively I try to get as close to a subject as possible, often ignoring the “big picture.” One recently early morning, however, there was a substantial amount of water between me and the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) that I spotted on a fallen tree and there was no way I was getting closer.

I concentrated on focusing, thinking I would probably have to crop a lot, and on composition. Almost despite myself, I ended up with an image that I really like, an image in which the kingfisher is only one element of an early morning landscape.

There is definitely a benefit sometimes in not getting closer to the subject.

Belted Kingfisher

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday, the last day of January, I set out for a small pond, hoping to see a female Belted Kingfisher who hangs out there. I didn’t have high hopes that I would see her and thought the pond probably would be frozen. I was happy to discover that the pond was only partially frozen over and thrilled when I hear the unmistakable call of a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).

Before I could get in range, the kingfisher flew into a tree that was a good distance away, adjacent to the wall of an elevated section of railroad tracks. The tan color in the first photo is that wall. After I had observed her for a few moments (and she seemed to be observing me), she flew a little higher in the trees and I took the second shot. The colorful design was painted on a railroad tanker car.

I am still hoping that I will be able to get some closer shots of this kingfisher, but I was quite pleased to be able to capture these images of one of my favorite birds.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) lives at a small lake not far from where I live and periodically I try to photograph, but she continues to remain elusive.

Generally I try to photograph the kingfisher at one of her normal perches in a grove of trees across a narrow portion of the lake from where I am standing. It’s tough to isolate her against the backdrop of the trees, especially at this time of the year when the leaves are still on the trees, and often I only catch sight of her when she starts to fly.

Most of the shots in this posting are my attempts to capture her in flight. I am getting better at tracking the bird in the air and keeping her in focus, but it’s not easy to do as she flies in and out of the shadows and against varying backgrounds and she is somewhat hidden in these shots.

This past weekend, I decided to try to approach the grove of trees from the other side of the lake, where there is often a group of fishermen. I was fortunate that I was alone and I was able to make it relatively close to the grove of trees.  I was surprised to see that the kingfisher was on a low perch rather than high in the trees where I usually find her and I managed to squeeze off a few shots before she flew away. The first shot in this posting was from this new shooting position.

I plan to try this new approach again in the future and with a bit of luck, I may finally be able to get the kind of shot of this bird that I have been visualizing in my mind.

 

Belted Kingfisher

Belted KingfisherBelted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s autumn now and my thoughts (and my camera) are starting to focus more on birds than insects. This past weekend, I returned to a location where I had previous seen a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).  The kingfisher would perch on the limbs of some trees overlooking a small trout-stocked pond called Lake Cook, which is really more like a small pond, and periodically make a foray across the surface of the water and grab a fish.

I realized this time that I had a problem—there are so many leaves still on the trees that I couldn’t spot the kingfisher when I heard its very distinctive, rattling call. I could get a general idea of its location, but couldn’t see the kingfisher until it was already in flight, which mean I had to react really quickly to acquire and track it, hoping that I would be able to focus on it.

As it turns out, hope is not really an effective photographic technique and not surprisingly I ended up with a lot of blurry, improperly exposed images, in part because the kingfisher was flying in an out of the shadows. I was pleased, though, that I was able to capture a few decent images of the kingfisher in flight. I was shooting from across the pond from where the kingfisher was perched, so the shots are not close-ups of the bird, but are more like environmental action shots. Maybe I need a longer lens!

Belted KingfisherBelted KiingfisherBelted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early yesterday morning, I was so focused on a Great Blue Heron that I spotted high in a tree that I didn’t even notice that there was a Bald Eagle in an adjacent tree until it took off almost right in front of me. Nearby, a female Belted Kingfisher loudly announced her presence with her unmistakable rattling call.

The sky was covered with heavy clouds and the forecast called for thunderstorms, which meant that lighting conditions were less than optimal for taking photos in a wooded area. Still, it felt great to be outdoors on the trails after a week of constrained activity thanks to our recent snowstorm.

I hadn’t seen a live Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at my local marsh in quite some time, so I was excited when I caught sight of the heron, perched on broken-off tree at the edge of one of the marshy fields. The heron was almost a silhouette against the sky, but its shape is very easy to recognize when you see it in profile.

heron_early_blog

As I was creeping forward to get a clearer shot, I was startled when a large bird flew right across my field of view—I knew almost immediately that it was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), although it too was mostly a shadowy silhouette as I viewed it through the branches of the trees. I was able to react quickly enough to get off a few shots before the eagle flew out of sight.

eagle_early_blog

A short distance away, a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was perched on the trunk of a rotted tree, intently staring down at the shallow water of the marsh, looking for prey. That water prevented me from getting closer to her, but I did manage to capture her distinctive pose through the branches.

kingfisher_early_blog

I am an early bird by habit and it was great to be outdoors in the “wilds” of my suburban marsh to see what other early birds I could find.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past week I have observed female Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) at a couple of different locations at my marshland park and tried to capture them in flight as they dove into the water from their perches in the trees. It was challenging, because the kingfishers were pretty far away, but I did get a couple of decent shots (with a fair amount of cropping).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was looking across the water of a small pond at my local marsh, enjoying the beautiful early morning reflections, when a bright white flash zoomed across my field of view and stopped in the middle of the water.

Initially I had no clue about what it might be, but when I looked through my telephoto lens, I could see that it was a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I had never before seen a kingfisher perched so low to the water and it was pretty obvious that she was not fishing. As I watched from a distance, she went through what I assume is her morning routine, as she twisted and turned and fluffed up her feathers.

Before long, the kingfisher flew off to a higher perch in a more distant tree, where I suspect she busied herself with the task of catching some fish for her breakfast.

IMG_2587 crop webIMG_2519 Cropped web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend I went back to locations where I have seen Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) in the past and encountered this male kingfisher (you may recall that the female has a chestnut stripe on her chest).

Initially he was on a wire above the stream, as shown in the second photo, but eventually he moved to a tree, where his pose looks more natural. He was pretty high in the tree and seemed to be surveying the entire area.

This was the first time that I was able to photograph the kingfisher with a longer lens and I had hoped to get some close-up shots. However, the kingfisher was not very cooperative this time and stayed close to the limit of the range of the lens. I was able to get pretty good detail in the first photo, however, despite a large amount of cropping, probably because I shot from a tripod.

As I said in a previous post, I enjoy stalking kingfishers—there is something about their look that I really like. I will continue to chase after them in search of better shots and hope they cooperate by staying in their current locations.

kingfisher1_blogkingfisher2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was standing next to the beaver lodge at my local marsh, I heard the unmistakable call of a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), a sound I had never heard before at that location. After you have heard its sound, described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a “strident, mechanical rattle,” you can’t help but remember it.

I was a bit surprised to see a kingfisher at that location, because kingfishers usually prefer clear waters, so they can see their prey. The water in the beaver pond is somewhat muddy, but perhaps it is teeming with new life.

I watched  for a while as the female Belted Kingfisher (females have orange chest stripe and males don’t) changed positions several times in the tree, perhaps hoping to get a better view of the water. Eventually she dove into the water, but I was unable to tell if she was successful in catching something before she flew away.

The kingfisher was across the pond from me, so the photos are not perfectly sharp, but they do show some of the different positions of this fascinating bird as she gazed intently at the water.

  kingfisher3_blog

kingfisher1_blog

kingfisher2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although I was excited to discover a male Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in an industrial setting, later that day I returned to my first love, a female kingfisher in a more natural environment.

Previously I posted photos of the male kingfisher and female kingfisher as I continue in my quest to get some really good photos of these amazing birds. If you compare the male and the female, you can see that the chestnut stripe really makes the female stand out (and the Belted Kingfisher is one of the few birds in which the female is more colorful than the male).

I continue to get interesting photos (and I am posting some new ones here), but I still am trying to get some better ones (these are grainy and a bit soft). By the way, can anyone figure out what she has in her bill in the last photo?

kingfisher_F2_blogkingfisher-F1_blogkingfisher_F3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Walking alongside a stream yesterday, I heard the unmistakable call of a Belted Kingfisher, a call that is usually described as a “piercing rattle.” Here is a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which has sound clips that you might find interesting if you have never heard a Kingfisher’s call in person.

A previous post chronicled my quest for an elusive female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) at a little suburban lake that is stocked with trout. I made multiple attempts on different days to photograph that Kingfisher as she perched on tree branches overlooking the water.

Although the stream along which I was walking yesterday is only a half mile or so from the female Kingfisher’s fishing spot, I was surprised to hear a Kingfisher’s call, because there are no trees on the banks of the stream at that location. When I heard its call again, I turned my head in the direction of the sound and was surprised to see a male Kingfisher perched on a power line above the stream. (It’s really easy to distinguish a male Belted Kingfisher from a female, because the male has only a blue stripe on is chest and a female has blue and chestnut stripes.)

When I moved a little closer to him, he flew a short distance downstream and I located him again, this time perched on the railing of a railroad bridge over the stream. Over the course of an hour or so, he and I played  a little game in which he would pose for a few minutes on the railing and then fly downstream. A short while later he would be back on the suspended power line. I would walk slowly in the direction of the power line and once I arrived there, the Kingfisher would return to the railroad bridge.

Although I was not able to get really close to the Kingfisher, I managed to get some pretty cool pictures, including several in-flight shots. I really like the industrial-looking setting of the railroad bridge, with its simple geometric structure and beautiful angular lines. In many ways, the bridge is a much a subject in the photos as the bird.

I confessed in a previous post that I was a stalker of Kingfishers, but maybe it’s time to elevate my status—perhaps from now on I will refer to myself as a member of the Kingfisher paparazzi.

kingfisher_M3_blogkingfisher_M1_blogkingfisher_M2_blogkingfisher_M5_blogkingfisher_M6_blogkingfisher_M4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I spent several hours on Sunday and Monday stalking a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). Does that make me a bad person?

I first encountered this beautiful bird a couple of weeks ago and was immediately smitten. Like a paparazzi photographer, I started snapping photos frantically when I saw her. I included some of those photos in a previous posting that I creatively entitled “Belted Kingfisher.”

Now I have started to hang out what I think are some of her favorite places, hoping desperately to catch a glimpse of her. She is still quite standoffish and won’t let me get close, but perhaps she will get used to having me around. Maybe she has commitment issues.

Here are a few shots from my recent encounters, including two in which I captured her as she was flying away.

For now, it is a classic case of unrequited love.

kingfisher1_blogkingfisher2_blogkingfisher3_blogkingfisher4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past weekend I decided to return to a little lake (it’s actually more like a pond) where I had previously seen some Hooded Merganser Ducks. This lake is part of a regional park and, according to posted signs, is stocked with trout.

As I was looking down at the water, I was surprised when a powder blue bird flew across my field of view. It was a pretty good size bird, but I didn’t have a clue what it was. It perched on a tree across the small lake and I was able to get a couple of shots to help me identify it. I came back later in the weekend and found the bird again and was able to take some additional photos. None of the photos yet is very good, but I thought I would share some of them, because I find the bird to be exceptionally cool.

What is the bird that has me so excited? It is a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology article, the Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more colorful than the male.  In a couple of my photos you can see the blue and chestnut bands across the breast of the female kingfisher (the male has only the blue band).

The Belted Kingfishers eat mostly fish and you can see a fish in the mouth of the bird in a couple of my photos. I suspected that the kingfisher swallows the fish whole, but I was too far away to see it happen. The same Cornell Lab article states that the kingfisher often dives from a perch, catches a fish and returns to the perch. It then pounds the prey against the perch before swallowing it head first.

As I mentioned, these photos were heavily cropped and are not that great in quality, but I hope to be able to take some better ones in the future. In addition to the shots of the bird in the tree, I am including one in which I attempted to photograph the bird in flight.

kingfisher5_blogkingfisher3_blog kingfisher1_blogkingfisher2

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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