Saturday, 4 April 2015

Sussex Kingfishers

Trips back to my childhood home in Haywards Heath, Sussex are always interesting from a birding perspective both in terms of comparing birds and birding to Norway but also in the differences in birdlife that I now notice compared to how it was 20+ years ago.
Starting with the later it is the population explosion of Buzzards (musvåk) that is most noticeable: from being a species that I can only remember seeing once from the house as a child it is now not unusual to see as many as five at a time when you gaze skyward from the garden. A trip into Central London also revealed two species whose numbers and distribution have greatly increased. At the London Eye we had two Peregrine Falcons (vandrefalk) which looked like they were nesting on a nearby building (provision of nest boxes has helped London have a population of, I believe, 20+ pairs). In St. James Park we had mating Ring-necked Parakeets and I heard this species commonly in other parks - I do not remember the species in Central London at all 2 decades ago. I'm sure there are also species which are absent now compared to my childhood but it was the commoner species that grabbed my attention.

I had not taken either binoculars of anything greater than a 55mm lens on my camera so was unprepared when my father suggested taking us to the Kingfisher hide at a nearby nature reserve. This is a species that Jr has always wanted to see so three of us went there hoping for at least a glimpse of this beautiful bird. The reserve is a great example of how human interference can both IMPROVE the lot for nature and give us humans a far more rewarding experience. This way of doing things is of course prevalent in the UK but most unfortunately is still quite alien in Norway where most nature conservation happens at the hands of the State where the general prevailing philosophy is to give an area nominal protection but then do nothing else and especially nothing to proactively "improve" an area, better to do nothing and let an area "naturally" decline. What the reserve had specifically done was to artificially create a sandbank that nesting Kingfishers (isfugl) could use and then erect a hide 20m away from which us humans could watch and enjoy. They even require you to have a permit and have paid for a day ticket or be a member of the Trust to gain access. A very alien (and indeed illegal?) concept in Norway but none the less a successful one. People’s interest in nature is increased through the wonderful experience they have and money is raised for non-state funded nature conversation - quite simple really.

The Kingfishers were not showing when we arrived but we didn't have to wait too long (although for Jr it was an eternity). First one bird arrived calling and then suddenly a pair. They spent a while taking it in turns to go into one of the holes in the bank and then when the female seemed satisfied she sat in a bush calling and after a while the male got the message and sweet, sweet music was made as you will see in this video. The video is shot with a 55mm lens. At the start you see 55mm in HD and then I have used in the inbuilt crop function in the camera to zoom in but at lower quality.

Junior took still pictures using the zoom on her point and shoot were much better than I could manage.

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