Friday, July 13, 2012

Belted Kingfishers, Rock Cut State Park, IL

The Adult belted Kingfisher instructing its young, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 7/6/2012.
A week ago I spent a hot (over 100 degrees) few hours at Rock Cut State Park to see what was shaking and what kind of wildlife would be out and about in such steamy weather. I saw over 40 different species of birds, but the one I enjoyed the most was a family of Belted Kingfishers. As I hiked around Pierce Lake, I seemed to always be a couple beats late with catching a Belted Kingfisher in a position to get a picture. Most often these birds are off and chattering away before I even know they are nearby.  This hike was no exception - in the beginning. But I noticed that one particular B-KF stayed on its perch longer than usual, and when it flew off it didn't go very far. I soon realized that it was a young, probably freshly fledged, Kingfisher (Below).
A juvenile Belted Kingfisher out and about, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 7/6/2012.
This young Kingfisher literally flew completely around the lake following the shoreline, flying perhaps 50-100 feet at a time. In the past as I would approach an adult Belted-KF, it usually flew a good distance (sometimes completely across Pierce Lake, which is a good sized lake.) before I would catch up with it again.
An adult male belted Kingfisher, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 7/6/2012.
This adult male Kingfisher (Above) was not too far away from the juvenile. Sometimes the juvenile would let me get too close for its parent's comfort and I would hear the chatter of the distant adult, and only then would the juvenile take off.

An adult female Belted Kingfisher (L) pokes its head into my picture and appears to be  teaching  the juvenile (R) some important information, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 7/6/2012.
I was almost completely around the Lake, running into the juvenile at least in a dozen points, but never quite fast enough to get a decent picture, nor when I did get close was it in a clear position. I did notice that the adult Kingfishers tend to perch on branches fairly high up in trees, but the juvenile that I was following stayed on low branches, usually just a few feet above the water. I was about 80% around the lake, when I was approaching the little marshy pond on the northeast end the lake, I deliberately slowed down and tried to be stealthy because it is an area that the Kingfishers like to hunt. There were dense head-high bushes between me and the pond, when I heard the familiar clattering of a Kingfisher. In the corner of my eye, I saw the quick flight of a Kingfisher swoop down on the other side of the bushes. I slowly inched my way peering through the few open spaces in the branches until I saw the juvenile with its back to me. There were still branches separating us, and I used these to act as a blind, but I still couldn't get a full body photo without some leaves or branches partly obstructing the view (Photo at Top of page). As I was taking some photos, suddenly an adult female entered into my viewfinder (Above). I have never been this close to an adult Belted Kingfisher before and I tried to get as many photos as I could, knowing how skittish they are and off with the slightest movement.

Blurry green leaves in the foreground keep this from being a great photo of an adult female Belted Kingfisher, Rock Cut State Park, IL; 7/6/2012.
To my pleasant surprise, it didn't fly away as I kept snapping photos. There were still leaves partly obstructing my view (Above). The thin blind of leaves and branches were working well, but I still wished I could get a clearer photo free of obstructions. I knew if I shifted into a position in which I would have had a clearer shot, they would fly away. So I made sure I took enough photos before I tried to get a better vantage point. And sure enough, as soon as I moved to a more open look, they were both gone like a flash.

I had a lot of fun stalking these Kingfishers for the better part of three hours on a 4 1/2 mile hike around the perimeter of Pierce Lake.

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