Favourite kings still reigning supreme

PUBLISHED: 16:17 28 September 2007 | UPDATED: 23:04 28 May 2010

I have written about kingfishers and shared my appreciation of these kings of our waterways ­several times in this column, but I make no apologies for another instalment today. I ve been lucky enough to see another 30 or so species on my travels abroad fr

I have written about kingfishers and shared my appreciation of these kings of our waterways ­several times in this column, but I make no apologies for another instalment today.

I've been lucky enough to see another 30 or so species on my travels abroad from the world's biggest, the giant kingfisher, in Kenya to the American pygmy kingfisher in Venezuela.

I have seen scrub dwelling types that feed on lizards and frogs rather than fish and some dazzlingly coloured kingfishers and yet ours has certainly never been outclassed for me.

Luckily, I see kingfishers regularly but spending some time at the southern end of the Ouse Washes in the last bit of truly summery weather we had, I had a real feast of them.

I was on the River Delph side of the washes, not the tidal Hundred Foot river side, and this provides excellent fishing for kingfishers.

I first walked from Sutton Gault towards Mepal Bridge and it wasn't long before the familiar piping call sounded out and a bullet sped past. I walked down to a very nice area of accidental flooding that was full of waders and another kingfisher had taken to fishing from posts by the river and then flew out on to the washes to fish from a ditch. Clearly, it was spoilt for choice and perhaps found a different dish in each location.

My walk then from the factories at Earith at the extreme southern end of the washes to Jolly Banker's Bridge produced five kingfishers, including pairs in tandem. The birds seemed laid back and didn't show their usual tendency to fly off at the first sign of humans.

I'd like to think this was due to my excellent 'fieldcraft', but I think it was more of a coincidence and a sign of contented kingfishers!

The run of mild winters had played a big part in such a strong presence of kingfishers in the Fens (and elsewhere), but I like to think the general improvement in the health of our waterways is another big factor. Pollution levels are well down on previous levels and this has been attributed to the otter's successful comeback.

In fact, we have another 'new' animal to look for.

A polecat was found as a road victim just into Bedfordshire recently (an animal once so persecuted it retreated to Wales and could be found only there) and was brought into RSPB headquarters where I was able to see it.

Quite something, and great to see another species returning to its old haunts.

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