Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Pair of Belted Kingfishers on the Tuolumne River

It's been a battle of wits and tweets. I've known there were Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) on the Tuolumne River. As a species, the bird is common all across North America, and the Tuolumne River where I live is excellent habitat, providing good fishing, lots of riparian vegetation for perching, and high dirt banks that are perfect for digging nesting burrows. I've even seen them a couple of times, perched along the section of the river where I've seen otters a few times now. But so far there was nothing to show in terms of photography. They've been too far away and unfocused in the few pictures I've attempted.
I was back on the river today making my usual trek along the Tuolumne Parkway Trail, and I made my way down to the banks of the river to a favorite sitting spot (I've seen both otters and raccoons from here recently). There was a lot of chattering in the trees, but I couldn't quite see who was responsible.
This is the last thing a fish sees sometimes...
Before long it was clear that the noisemakers were a pair of Belted Kingfishers. I'm not sure they were excited about me in particular because they were patrolling a large section of the river downstream, flying back and forth, perching briefly, and then patrolling again.
Once in a while they landed close enough to snap a few okay shots from a distance of about 200-300 feet. The pair were male and female. Kingfishers are one of the few bird species in which the female is more brightly colored. The male has a plain white breast (with the black "belt" near the neck). The females (top photo) have some rusty bands as well.
I waited for some time, and they teased me by coming closer and perching in a nearby tree that made focusing a bit harder (it'll work one of these times!). Finally, I needed to get going so I started walking back downstream. As if to tease me, the female landed on the tree snag practically over my head and posed for a single shot, the one that appears at the top of the post. And then they flew off again, chattering and twittering away.

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