Saturday, 3 March 2012

River Coly- Interesting Kingfisher behaviour, Daubenton's bat, Dipper & more **corrected**

As I finished work at a sensible time today I went home and was out with the cameras about 5 minutes later! I saw that the clouds a few miles away to the west were raining, so I headed downstream on the Coly in the hope of missing the rain. I didn't. However, I stayed out as the birds were on good form (I sacrificed some of my clothes to try and cover up the camera gear to keep it dry-ish). I heard Kingfishers and a Dipper quite early on after Umborne bridge, and eventually found them after tracking their calls. Firstly for some Kingfisher pics. They're VERY poor quality but the behaviour shown is a little odd.

From the last pic, these birds BOTH appear to be male as there is no red/orange on the lower mandible of either birds' beak. If that's the case, then the fish pass shown on pics 2 and 3 seems very odd given the time of year. There is a small fish in the beak of the bird on the right in pic 2. You can just about make it out if you zoom in on the pic. Next odd bit of behaviour was that there was a fish pass the OTHER way with the previous recipient bird now being the supplier. They were definitely behaving like a pair though. Whenever one flew off (usually flushed by dogs and their owners who nearly always seem incapable of realising that a photographer with serious gear, crouching low and stalking something, might not want to be disturbed) the other followed; they were never chasing each other off. I need to investigate further and get closer to see if either bird has any features characteristic of a female bird. Watch this space.
The Kingfisher family at the lower end of the Coly is a LOT tamer than the family that I photographed last year. Probably because their nest is very exposed to human and dog disturbance (yes, everyone who follows the footpath is technically breaking the law (Schedule 1 protection on the Kingfishers)). I've always been incredibly careful to stick to the regulations regarding watching and photographing Kingfishers. Hence why I wait at fishing sites which I've found, even though I've located 2 (possibly 3) active nest sites. It angers me when I see people playing with their beasts of burden and throwing sticks RIGHT in front of a Kingfisher nest. It leaves me in a tricky position; knowing that they are breaking the law (although perhaps unknowingly), but if I do say something, then they may exploit the nest for personal gain or entertainment (whether that's sitting and watching and causing unnecessary distress to the birds, or deliberately interfering with the nest site). Maybe these people should take notice of the signs which say to keep dogs under close control at all times. If you can't do so, then keep it on the bloody lead!!! Yeesh. Yes, this is basically a rant about people with/without dogs who are just so damned ignorant to a point of utter stupidity (and illegality!!). Anyway... with the 'Umborne end family' being relatively tame (can get within 20 metres of them fairly easily compared to the 'Chantry end family' which will usually fly off if you're within 75 metres) I'll soon be getting more pics like last year; maybe even some closer ones. Needless to say that this will depend entirely on the aforementioned 'disturbers':

10 years worth of monitoring and careful studying of characteristics did pay off last year!

Whilst waving bye to the Kingfishers after they'd been scared off (no, I'm not letting this drop), I saw something completely unexpected. At around 15:00 I saw a bat flying up and down a short stretch of the river attacking a large group of flies. I rattled off a few shots of it (this was not easy, manual focussing a lens combination at 672mm focal length in 35mm speak, and from close range, and in a shadowy environment). I'm fairly sure this was a Natterer's Bat rather than the usual Pipistrelle. ** Correction, I've now been imformed that it was a Daubenton's Bat (thanks Fiona & Tim)**. Not rare by any stretch of the imagination, just something different. Here's a couple of pics. Comments/corrections welcome!

Next thing I concentrated on was the Dipper. This is where the anger at dogs/owners was brought to a peak. I'd tracked the Dipper down a couple of times, only to have it flushed by people, and then dogs. When I finally located it in a more sheltered area, I sneaked up on it very slowly, taking shots at 3-5metre intervals. I then detatched the lens & camera from the tripod and started crawling. I was determined to get some close up shots! Conveniently, the Dipper was just behind two chunky tree trunks, so I crawled on the ground behind the trunks, ENSURING that the Dipper couldn't see me. I then moved out to the side from behind the trees and put the camera up to my eye (I was only about 8 metres away at this point, I'm fairly accomplished at the whole stealthy sneaking thing). An then BIFF, two dogs ran towards me and into my camera gear, getting mud on me and my gear, and flushing the Dipper before I got a shot of it from that position. The owners were shouting at their dogs, but to no avail. Again, if incapable of controlling your animals, keep them on the lead like any resposible person with any sense would. I confess to muttering a few choice words in a fairly unsubtle manner at the dogs, which I wish they could have understood. I think the owners could tell I wasn't particularly happy, they apologised profusely even though I didn't complain to them. All my effort wasted, and a bird disturbed unnecessarily. Nice one! Here's some pics which I took whilst the camera was still set up on the tripod from a fair distance:

After this I thought I'd retire and go home. One last sighting on the way back was a nice Grey Heron which caught an eel and took about 3 minutes to persuade it to go into it's beak!

Generic apology for the ranting nature of some of this post (pretty viscious by my soft standards, but it needed saying). Also a generic apology for the graininess of the photos; due to low light, all shots were taken between ISO 640 and ISO 1600, primarily at the higher end of those two limits.


  1. Hi Tim, re graininess at high ISO - have you tried 'Neat Image' program available to download free. It only works for JPEG images but I now use the full £25 version for RAW images at up to 3200 ISO and it works for me.

    1. Hi John, as yet I've only used the software that came with my camera. I've been planning to invest in some decent software to help with the noise problem but I haven't yet decided which to buy (I need better editing software generally so I'm thinking of pushing the boat out a little bit). Thanks for suggesting 'Neat Image' I'll look into it. Certainly worth a try at £25/free!

  2. What a fantastic blogpost!

    Those kingfishers are beautiful. Brilliant photographs of the bat, too. My wife --- Fiona Mathews --- assures me that it's not Natterer's but the closely-related Daubenton's because a) it's over water, b) its ears are short, and c) Daubenton's often come out during the day whereas Natterer's don't.

    Flight during the day is usually associated with a bat being very hungry. This one might have just emerged from hibernation.

    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      Ahh great I was hoping for a correction/confirmation. Bats aren't my strong point; I've never really seen/studied many to be able to distinguish the species effectively. I plumped for Natterer's Bat as my pic most closely resembled the pic of that type in my wildlife book (the pic of the Daubenton's didn't show a pale front in the book) and it said that Natterer's can be seen in wooded areas/near water/in towns. But researching on the web makes me agree with your wife's ID of Daubenton's.

      Thanks for your help Tim & Fiona.