Friday 16 October 2015

The clash of Kings on the River Bulbourne

Hemel (BMT): It’s that time of year when monogamous Kingfisher pairs separate and set up alone to see out the winter. The young too disperse, finding their own stretches of water to patrol and to sustain them through the colder months.

I had been away for a few days, attending a family funeral, so, in spite of the gloom and drizzle yesterday afternoon, it was good to catch up with life along the river. One of the colour-ringed Little Egrets is still a regular fixture, together with the two adults. And, of course, there are the Kingfishers, now in the throws of establishing and defending winter territories.

Just after 3pm, beside the river on Harding’s Moor, approaching Station Road, I could hear two Kingfishers having a right old barney. Insistent calling from both parties and, when I finally located the female, perched precariously on grasses overhanging the river, she was posturing continually, bowing her head and staring with murderous intent.

Disturbed by a man looking for fish(?!), the birds flew up in to the tree on the opposite bank and here they remained for at least the next 2 hours, barely moving except to posture, flinch and mirror one another. Apart from the rise and fall of their chests as they breathed, you could be mistaken for believing they were playing statues - to move was to lose the battle.

The female had clearly staked out her spot but the male seemed to slowly but surely decrease the distance between them. Unfortunately, it started to rain quite heavily towards 5pm and I had to call it a day, leaving the pair locked in this subtle but fierce battle. I wonder if this location on the river is a boundary between adjacent territories and they were asserting their lots? The male, I think, is a first winter bird and the female an adult. Perhaps mother is trying to encourage son to stop raiding the food cupboard and go out and find his own supplies! I had watched the female fishing downstream last week, again in the gloom and drizzle.

Female Kingfisher, River Bulbourne, 6 Oct 2015. A selection of video stills from handheld video footage, in the rain!

One of these days, I’ll come across the Kingfishers when there’s enough light for nice photographs at a reasonable ISO. In the meantime, here are some 90 seconds from the 2 hour stand-off, to give you a flavour of the determined patience of these birds when holding their ground. The tension of battle is palpable but made all the more obvious when the young male jumps at the sound of the female’s sudden call. Their focus was such that they completely ignored me, standing less than 10 metres away, as conspicuous as a pink elephant.


  1. Wow! Amazing! What a treat for you! Beautiful birds too! From ARF

    1. Thanks ARF and thank you to those of you who tick the "Great Stuff" or "Interesting" reactions boxes on posts. It makes keeping up the blog all the more enjoyable knowing that others too are enjoying it with me. Thank you!

  2. amazing ...never thought of you as a pink elephant Lucy

    Ian R

    1. lol, thanks Ian ;o). Hopefully you'll go on not thinking of me as a pink elephant.


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