Tag Archives: belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Chasing the dadgummed kingfisher

If you’ve ever tried to photograph a kingfisher, you know they dislike people about as much as they dislike snakes in their nests.  Most people hear kingfishers but never see them, or if they see them they only see this:

Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in flight (2009_08_15_028353)
Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in flight (2009_08_15_028354)
Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in flight (2009_09_26_029125)
Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in flight (2009_09_26_029140)

So when I set out yesterday morning to photograph the female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) who lives and hunts around Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake, I had my work cut out for me.

She bickered and complained each time I approached.  Moaning and groaning all the way, she would dash off to a most inconvenient perch, usually one across the bay or out in the middle of the lake, but sometimes nearby yet in a position that offered me nothing except the worst possible view.

Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a stump far across a bay (2009_09_26_029076)
Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a dead tree in the middle of the lake (2009_09_26_029133)
Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched in the treetops (2009_09_26_029157)

I’m no fool, though.  Well, not much of one anyway.  I know her buttons and how not to press them, I know her territory and how she guards it, and most importantly, I know her ways and how to predict them.

So after she left the bay and headed inland along Dixon Branch, I followed, a casual stroll that took forever in my eyes—yet I knew she’d be waiting and where she’d be waiting, or at least thereabouts.

When I reached the bridge over the creek, I headed toward Loop 12, Buckner Boulevard, a six-lane nightmare for wildlife and a constant source of too much noise.  With all the people wandering about the lake sans a clue as to the goodies hiding just a few steps away, I figured the kingfisher would get away from the fishermen and the joggers and the cyclists and the teeming mass of people.

I was right.  Not too far from the thoroughfare in a place where plants on the bank gave her cover, I found her yammering away in protest of my intrusion.  I knew she had few options with all the people, so I anticipated where she’d go to get away from me.

On a perch in the wide open…

Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a dead branch (2009_09_26_029388)
Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a dead branch (2009_09_26_029404)
Female belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a dead branch (2009_09_26_029413)

Though I approached and felt happy with the opportunity to see her so closely, she flew the coop when some of the fishermen daftly walked up to her position.  They had less of a clue than a sack of wet hair…

Birds I never knew – Part 2

Staring into the sun trying to locate a distant voice.  Seeing a bit of shadow swimming through woodlands.  Driving along while trying to snap a photo of something resting atop a building.

Being prepared has little to do with successfully capturing an image when the subject and circumstances conspire against me.

I try, though.  Oh how I try…

Two male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) perched on a makeshift bird feeder (20080414_03459)

Two male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater).  An old deer stand at the family farm quickly transformed into a makeshift bird feeder.  The blue plastic tray hanging above the ground is filled each day with birdseed, and that beckons to a variety of winged beasts who visit from dawn to dusk—and probably well into the night.

A male belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) hiding in tree limbs (20080114_01128)

A male belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).  His raucous cry had me searching high and low trying to find him.  Much to my dismay, he flitted from tree to tree as I ran along some distance away attempting to follow him.  Finally realizing I would never get close enough for a respectable photo, I took aim despite not being able to see if I was or was not focused on the right tree.

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) floating on the surface of White Rock Lake (20080405_02986)

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).  Cunning little creatures, these grebes.  They disappear beneath the water’s surface if they perceive a threat.  When they return to the surface, they can be one to three meters/yards away from where they vanished.  I hurried along the shore of White Rock Lake trying to snap a photo of this critter as it continually dove out of sight only to pop up in random directions and distances from where I lost sight of it.

An American black vulture (a.k.a. black vulture; Coragyps atratus) perched atop a hospital (20080511_05173)

An American black vulture (a.k.a. black vulture; Coragyps atratus).  Driving home one afternoon, I spied this beautiful bird preening in the bright sunshine.  Attempting to navigate Dallas’s busy streets while holding a camera out the window to snap photos is not something I recommend for the faint of heart.  Oh, and this irony was not lost on me at that time or when I viewed these images later: the vulture was sitting atop a hospital.

A white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) perched in the treetops (IMG_20080105_00703)

A white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica).  During my first visit to the Audubon park near White Rock Lake’s spillway, I stood in a ravine with dense woodlands all around me as a spirited creek bubbled along on its journey to larger waterways.  In the dim light of predawn hours, I heard more than saw a bird land in the treetops quite a way from where I stood.  I snapped a few photos despite the distance and despite not knowing what kind of bird it was.

A male hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) clinging to the side of a tree trunk (IMG_20071230_00641)

A male hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus).  Its size and its beak differentiated this common animal from the downy woodpeckers that also inhabit the area.  The rat-tat-tat knocking in the treetops above me drew my attention as I walked home from the lake, and against the contrast of wintry limbs and bright sky I nearly gave up trying to capture an image so high up from such a disadvantaged position far below.

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