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Charlie Fleming | all galleries >> Birds of the world in Taxonomic order. Species count to December 2023 is 980 >> Common Kingfisher - Alcedo athis >> Breeding Kingfishers 2013 > An amazing amount of disturbance!
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An amazing amount of disturbance!

I came away from the nest site at 9.15 this morning feeling immensely frustrated and stressed. The disturbance was just so intense, I just didn't know what to do for the best. I got there at 7.30, the spring tide was just receding but the water is high during the spring tide period and it is due to peak and be even higher tomorrow. I am quite confident that it won't rise high enough to inundate the nest but I was hoping that the nestlings would have fledged by now but they haven't. What did intrigue me was the lack of visits to the nest this morning and in fact during the first hour only one fish was delivered. I did start to get worried but I have done that before, worry that is, and then realised that everything was fine. Having given the situation a great deal of thought there are two factors that could have influenced the lack of visits to the nest during this time. Firstly the high tide was at 6.30 and the level was still high, even at 7.45. This meant that fish were probably difficult to catch in the deeper and more muddy water. In addition, by 7.30, 2 hours 20 minutes after dawn the parents had obviously fed the youngsters as they would do at first light. This is a long process and if there are up to 5 or 6 nestlings ( as is normal), if every youngster was fed just 2 fish this is 10 or 12 visits to the nest which could take potentially 2 hours to achieve. Then the parents of course would need to feed themselves. They were obviously resting up somewhere.
By the time I came away, the birds had started to visit the nest burrow regularly again but the intensity of disturbance now was dramatic. The picture above shows the male who perched on the willow branch by the nest with, as you can see, a large minnow. There were several dogs with their owners very near. The dogs were in the water and the owners were throwing stones to encourage them in to the water. Other dogs and owners were arriving, yet the Kingfisher remained on the perch with his fish. Then one of the dogs actually tried to catch the bird running towards it playfully but with that, of course the bird flew off rapidly. As if that wasn't enough, two more dogs were now in the mid-stream running and splashing through the stream with their owners encouraging them. I seethed with frustration and with fear for the birds. Enough was enough, I emerged from the hide and called over to the owners and their now 10 dogs!!!!! I told them of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and that they were disturbing a bird which is afforded special protection and I asked them to get their dogs out of the water and move away which they all, except one did immediately without question. The one other dog and owner eventually left but even before they did the Kingfisher came in to the burrow to feed. I felt better to see that but just how much they can tolerate is a question to ponder. I came away because I knew I was going to get involved in a situation that was beyond control. I obviously cant keep shouting at people to tell them to go away, that wold cause disturbance in itself and the more people that know about the nest, the worse it would be for the nest security. I decided to hope and pray that the birds "hang-in there" and continue to feed their young when they get the chance and also to pray that they fledge the nest very very soon. At the end of the day you can't blame people for wanting to enjoy the pleasures of an English summer.
If anyone is following this blog then you may be pleased to hear that at dusk I watched the parents bring at least 6 fish.

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Art Wittingen18-Jul-2013 11:47
You did a good Job ! On behalf of the Kingfishers, Thank you !
Dave Barnes09-Jul-2013 11:18
Good write up Charlie, guess they just didn't know about the nest and when you take time to explain the circumstances and the implications of their actions most people (but not all) would take the trouble to avoid the birds.
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