Talk-walk: Kingfishers of Lancaster Canal

Female Kingfisher taken by Chris Armstrong

Rainbows and Reed Buntings

This was the first event in a new series of talk-walks was organised to boost wellbeing. We started with a discussion about kingfishers – their biology and habits, with questions from the group. This was followed by two short mindfulness exercises. The event culminated with a walk along the canal and around Pony Wood in search of kingfishers (and other feathered friends).

Female Kingfisher taken by Chris Armstrong
Female Kingfisher (c) Chris Armstrong

Who knew?

We talked about some of the fascinating facts about kingfishers, not least that their sight changes from monocular in air to binocular when they dive into water. Monocular vision (I had to look this up after) means that each eye sees an image independent of the other eye. The vision is sharper, but depth perception isn’t as good, so the bird has to bob its head to judge distance. On diving into the water the bird has to deal with the refraction from air to water. Vision switches to binocular (single image from both eyes combined) which enables it to see its prey moving, but loses some visual acuity. If you want to read up some more on kingfishers, the Wikipedia entry has some great information and has been cited by The British Trust for Ornithology, so it is well-researched.

These beautifully coloured birds are the subject of all sorts of myth and legend, one being that only the righteous get to see them!

A walk of two halves

Enjoying the golden light on Silver Birches at Pony Wood. (c) Jane Lang.

After a short shower en route to Fairfield Nature Reserve, we spotted a beautiful rainbow. We hoped this might presage a sighting of our treasure, the kingfisher.

We split into two groups with half looking at the birds in Pony Wood with me. The other half walked along the canal with local amateur wildlife photographer Chris Armstrong in search of a kingfisher, then swapping over. Neither group was ‘righteous’ or successful in finding our treasure, as sadly we didn’t see a kingfisher. However, in Pony Wood we had great views of Reed Buntings (below), Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Long Tailed Tits. There were also good views of Mallard ducks and Moorhens along the canal.

Reed Bunting: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Next Talk-Walk

Our next event will be on Saturday 4th February. Winter Tree Identification: A Beginner’s Guide. More information and booking here. £8.

Poetry corner: The Kingfisher

It was the Rainbow gave thee birth,
And left thee all her lovely hues;
And, as her mother’s name was Tears,
So runs it in my blood to choose
For haunts the lonely pools, and keep
In company with trees that weep.

Go you and, with such glorious hues,
Live with proud peacocks in green parks;
On lawns as smooth as shining glass,
Let every feather show its marks;
Get thee on boughs and clap thy wings
Before the windows of proud kings.

Nay, lovely Bird, thou art not vain;
Thou hast no proud, ambitious mind;
I also love a quiet place
That’s green, away from all mankind;
A lonely pool, and let a tree
Sigh with her bosom over me.

W.H. Davies, read from ‘The Curious Bird Lover’s Handbook’, p164, Niall Edworthy. Published by Black Swan 2017.