Monday, February 27, 2023

Kingfisher Heaven!

 Anyone who attempts to photograph Belted Kingfishers knows how skittish they are and how tough it is to get close up images of them. 
My first experiences with Kingfishers was shortly after I began photographing about 2002. 
I had begun using a Canon 30D (the first digital SLR) and the Canon 100-400 lens that winter, and I  noticed that a Kingfisher was often sunning on a Sycamore branch over Buck Creek. The location was adjacent to a bridge, and I figured that I could sit under the bridge abutments and catch some images. 
Soooooo....I spent hours in January of that year sitting under the bridge in camo and covered with a camo cloth....and I got NOTHING! No matter how stealthy I was, the Kingfisher immediately noticed me and quickly departed. That earned them the name "Little Bastards" from me....and that name has stuck for over 20 years. 
In all fairness, I've developed some techniques to improve my Kingfisher skills over the years. First off....whenever possible STAY IN THE CAR! Kingfishers will not tolerate a person approaching on foot, but will (to a degree) tolerate a vehicle passing by. If I notice a Kingfisher perched, I usually drive by and take a look, then turn around and make another pass....this time slowing down well before reaching it to shoot a few images. Then, if the bird tolerates, I'll slowly approach and if in a safe location, I'll turn the engine off and continue shooting. Why engine off? Because the engine does frighten the bird, but also even the slightest vibration from the engine will cause some loss of sharpness to the image.
Yesterday, I was driving down a narrow country road, where I often see a pair of Kingfishers along a creek. I saw them both perched on a utility line initially, and slowed down to photograph. After a few shots, the female flew down to a fencepost and watched as I slowly approached. When I was almost even with her, it became apparent that she was being quite tolerant. Fortunately, the road has very little traffic, and I was able to shut off my vehicle and photograph her for a long while (in bird photography minutes). In fact, she was so cooperative that I finally drove on while she was still perched on the post (after over 1000 images). 

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