“Bred in Darkness” : the Kingfisher of Little Bowden Returns

The other big news this week in the fast moving world of bird life, is another sighting of the Kingfisher of Little Bowden.  First thing Tuesday morning there he – or she – was, sitting on the river bank near to the bridge.  When he saw me, of course, he shot off under the bridge and down the river on to private land.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last time I saw him this year, or at least not until the dawn in the late Autumn, as they tend to keep out of the way when and where people are likely to be around.  Perhaps I should try to locate their nest?  Easier said than done, according to Flora Thompson (writing in the Catholic Fireside). 

“I have never seen a kingfisher’s nest, never even met anyone who had a friend who had a friend who had seen one, so I cannot describe it from first, second, or even third-hand experience.  In former times the nesting of the kingfisher, or the halcyon, as it was called then, was supposed to be one of the romances of nature.  About Christmas time the hen was believed to put out to sea on her nest, as on a raft, and during the time of her incubating such a tranquillizing spell was exercised that the very wind and waters were stilled.

Modern naturalists, following Truth even more assiduously than Beauty, and often finding them one at the end of the pursuit, have tracked the kingfisher to its real home, and given us facts instead of poetry.  They tell us the bird makes its home underground, usually in the banks of the stream which forms its fishing-ground. A neat oval opening leads into a tunnel two or more feet long, and that, in turn, leads into a circular nesting-chamber, where the pure white eggs repose on a bed of disgorged fish-bones.

It is not difficult to account for this secret underground home, for the brilliant colours of the hen brooding on the nest in the open would expose her and her young to all sorts of dangers; but, none the less, it is a striking thought that the flash of gem-like light we call a kingfisher should be bred in darkness.”   

 One way of tracking the nest down, perhaps, is suggested by this passage from “The Little Grey Men” by the Northamptonshire writer, illustrator and sportsman ‘BB’ –

“The gnomes remained silent for they knew Kingfishers’ nests of old, did they not have to hold their noses every time they passed them?  Kingfishers are filfthy birds in their nesting habits, and it was always a source of utmost amazement that such gorgeous and kingly beings could be so dirty.”

 All I have to do is snuffle around the various holes in the river bank until I find one that really pongs of fish!  And then? 

I shall catch him in a net and keep him in a cage and feed him on pilchards …

OH NO YOU WON’T, YOU HORRID MAN! – S. Vere Benson and the British Bird Lovers’ League

No, you’re quite right, I won’t.  I shall try to take a photograph of him, though (which probably won’t turn out like this one) –

2 thoughts on ““Bred in Darkness” : the Kingfisher of Little Bowden Returns

  1. How lovely. I’ve only seen a kingfisher once and it felt like such a privilege. Good luck with the photo – I’d take the pilchards along just in case.

  2. They are a bit elusive. Their plumage is so bright that they have to spend their time hiding or flying so fast that no-one can see them properly. I suppose this must serve some evolutionary purpose (though I can’t think quite what at the moment).

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