Every birder has a favorite species or two. Mine has always been the Belted Kingfisher, partly because this elegant speed demon is so elusive.
For five years I’ve been trying to get a photo in mid-flight, but it’s been like catching a shadow. The Belted Kingfisher is so skittish and moves with such unpredictable twists and turns, he comes up mostly as a blur.
That is, until the other day.
My fascination with the Kingfisher goes back to my first encounter in Huntley Meadows Park in Northern Virginia, where I found one patrolling a swampy lake. I caught just a glimpse of him zipping about, but that’s all it took.
Kingfishers prefer shallow water where they can spot fish from the air. They like to fly along the banks, and then perch in a tree on the water’s edge. It’s as if to taunt a birder into thinking you might get a clear shot if you can just get a little closer. Half the time these sightings occur in swamp-like areas, so this can be a murky and muddy pursuit.
Part of the Kingfisher’s appeal for me is its striking appearance. The Kingfisher looks like a cross between a military officer in a crisp uniform and a surly teenager with spiked hair. When it spreads its wings the Kingfisher looks like Elvis in his most outlandish getup.