Kingfishers – the jewels of the watercourse

Celebrating the Wild Side of Yorkshire’s Coast & Country: Kingfishers – the jewels of the watercourse

Male kingfisher - azure jewel of Yorkshire's waterways pictured by Brent Hardy

With our streams and rivers improving in water quality, fish are returning to even the most unpromising situations. The kingfisher, a bird enjoying a remarkable upturn in fortunes, is a welcome bonus, bringing sparkle to the waterways. This azure jewel of river, lake, and pond, is turning up across Yorkshire from the countryside into the urban heartlands. A sighting, even a glimpse, gives huge pleasure to the watcher, but nowadays, the view is often much more than fleeting.

Rarely seen as Brent Hardy captures battling territorial male kingfishers on the River Don

Photographer Brent Hardy captured a stunning sequence of photographs as he sat on the banks of one such river. ‘I was lucky enough to spend over 5 hours watching a male kingfisher defend his territory from another male. It is something I have never seen before and was fascinating to watch. For most of the time the birds took turns to chase each other away but on two occasions they locked beaks and fell into the river fighting.’  I have featured Brent’s remarkable pictures here

.Mating kingfishers pictured by Brent Hardy

He managed to photograph the two rival males and also the male and female together. Like many birds, especially on linear habitats like rivers, kingfishers are territorial. However, we are rarely privileged to witness the intimate interactions so closely. The male holding territory must establish and defend a length of river, to provide food and lodgings for himself, his mate, and the brood of hungry youngsters that follows. Having secured a patch and attracted a mate, he battles against all comers; hence the bitterness and violence of territorial clashes.

So take a stroll long any of the main rivers or canals across the county, then sit quietly, and wait. You have a good chance of sighting the river king. At this time of year, the birds are tied to their breeding sites, but later in the year and through the winter, they move off to other locations like urban park ponds and similar sites. Good places to try include the urban River Don in Sheffield, the Porter Brook in Sheffield, the Dearne in Barnsley, the Aire in Leeds, or the Ouse in York. Really though, almost all our rivers have streams may turn up a jewel at this time of year.

Female kingfisher - pictured by Brent Hardy

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, is contactable on ; follow ‘Ian’s Walk on the Wildside’ blog, for more information.

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