This is a tale in two parts of the hunt for a Kingfisher shot.
We frequently see a Kingfisher flashing by on the river. No good to me though as it never seems to occur when I have a camera in my hand. Even if I had, they are much too fast for me to raise the camera, focus etc. And how often do you see one? Maybe a one millisecond flash by every few days? So, a bit of planning was required. They are tricky birds to photograph. One option is to locate a nest, then stake it out using a hide, being prepared to sit in the hide for hours on end over many days. Not practical for me as I have allocated only one day a week to shoot the photographs for the book. The wonderful shots you see of Kingfishers in books and calendars are almost always set ups. Enterprising individuals place a tank or artificial pool of some kind in or near a river known to have a kingfisher family. Beside this they build a perch and then a hide a few feet away for the photographers. In the pool they put bait such as live minnows. They then have ready a reliable feeding station for the birds and can charge up to £250 per photographer for the chance to get the photograph of their dreams. Unfortunately this was no good for me as I wanted to make sure ALL the images are on chalk streams and valleys and "in-situ” and “natural”.
Kingfishers are a Schedule 1 which means you can’t get very near them without a special licence and even then must not disturb them as they go about their normal activity. So basically keep clear of their nest in the river bank, even if you managed to find one. I therefore wanted to find a regular feeding spot on a chalk stream. I asked the local experts for likely locations. Mick Green of Bishopstoke on the Itchen has been supportive of the aims of my book and he put me in touch with his keeper, Peter Hellard. Peter knew of one fairly reliable location and very kindly placed two perches over likely river eddies - favourite fishing spots for Kingfishers. See the first image above. I set up my kit and kept fairly well hidden but having spent a whole day there, had zero to show for it. A kingfisher was there alright but just flashed by half a dozen times at incredible speed patrolling his kilometre plus territory. Try again!
The second image above is a perch I found on a channel on the Avon. You can just see the perch at the bottom of the photo. More of this in part 2.