It was early May and spring had been cold so far, but today the sun was shining as I arrived at a farm near Droitwich Spa. Two fellow photographers followed me into the courtyard; these were to be my hide mates for the day. We exited our vehicles and gathered in front of Darren, our guide, who explained it was just a short walk to the hide. It was my first time to photograph kingfishers and I was excited.
We gathered our gear from the cars and moved off into the adjoining field. A few horses watched as we passed by and at the far end of the field stood a small wooden structure, our hide/home for the next 10 hours. The first kingfisher was already on the perch as we arrived but took flight as we moved closer. The hide was built into the riverbank and stood partially above the stream on stilts. A few steps led us down to the door and inside was empty except for four chairs. We each took a seat and placed our beanbags on the shelf which ran the entire length of the hide just below the openings. We rested our long lenses on the beanbags and placed them under the camouflage netting and out through the openings.
Looking out was a small tank set on legs to raise it above the river which flowed beneath. In one corner was a 3ft metal pole that rose into the air and was designed to hold a perch. On the far side of the stream and in front of the steep riverbank was a long board covered in a green material which provided an excellent background for our shots.
Darren explained a few details and told us he would return in a few hours to replenish the tank with small fish to keep the kingfishers keen. He also explained there was a variety of moss and lichen covered branches which we could choose from to use as perches throughout the day.
I took my first test shot and checked my camera settings. My vision was limited due to the camouflage netting which covered the narrow openings and shielded us from the birds. I found it difficult focusing on the perch as I looked through the tiny holes in the netting. My first thoughts were how long would we have to wait for an encounter. Not long! Before I knew it the sound of a camera shutter being fired alerted me that our first guest had arrived. As the male kingfisher sat on the branch looking around and staring down into the tank an eruption of camera bursts followed. Without warning he had gone; within a blink of an eye it had dived down into the tank and the beautiful blue streak had disappeared upstream with its catch.
From time to time we changed the perch so that our photos were varied and we continued to get regular visits from male and female birds throughout the day. With each visit the time grew before another returned thus giving us time to review our shots. Occasionally the kingfishers would return to the perch with their catch in their beaks which were thrashed from side to side against the perch before being swallowing headfirst!
After a long day and with the light fading I decided to call it a day. Still buzzing with excitement, I gathered my gear and wandered back up the fields to the farm where my car was waiting. It had been a very successful day with an excess of 600 shots captured on my memory card. It would have been easy to have taken many more but I’d been picky and resisted shooting too many multiple bursts of the same pose. My only regret was that I should have brought a 300mm lens with me as trying to capture the diving kingfisher with a 500mm on a cropped sensor was extremely difficult.
You can look at and buy the best results from my Bird Gallery.