The Christmas Kingfishers Leap of Faith

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A few days back at Sandy Camp Road Wetlands, a popular birding site near Brisbane I bumped into a few other photographers who tipped me off to a Sacred Kingfisher nest on one of the nearby tracks. Judging from the passing traffic it seems everyone with a camera in Brisbane knew about the nest except me. Anyway, not being one to miss such an opportunity I settled in to try and get some shots of the adult feeding the nestlings safely ensconced in a termite nest just above the trail.

What should have been a relatively simple exercise was complicated by the surrounding bush and harsh light which made good metering difficult. The birds back flip departure away from the nest was particularly aerobatic and interesting as it was never quite the same. So the challenge was to try and get a few good sharp frames worth keeping. But after an hour or so it became clear that there was no way anything decent was going to come out of the effort as the light was just too harsh. Plus it was starting to get hot and the bugs were starting to chew.

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While processing the days haul which turned out to be very average at best I decided to try and stack some shots using Helicon Focus to see the effect. Unfortunately you can’t make bad shots better multiplying the effect!

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Hoping for some better shots I was back there early this morning thinking I’d catch good early light and the birds breakfast feeding. But Sod’s Law, today was heavily overcast and threatening rain. It was so dark I had to open up the lens two stops and push the ISO beyond 1000 and still struggled to see or get anything useful. Meanwhile the mother was busy servicing the nest, and what sounded like a youngster in a nearby tree. It was clear the youngsters were in the process of leaving the nest meaning my opportunities to get some good nest feeding shots was fast running out of time. Dumping the tripod I settled for some hand held shots at a slightly better angle and no sooner had I lined up on the nest opening to shoot a few test frames when the mother appeared on the nearby branch she used to launch her approach to the nest. Expecting her to start flying and ready to fire off a burst I was surprised to see a head poke out of the nest. It took a look, stuck out some more, took a look then launched itself into the big outside world. I was so stunned and it happened so fast I just managed a few lousy frames. But at least I got to watch and you get to see something that you don’t often see…that leap of faith out into the big world.

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The youngster, free from the dark confines of the nest landed on a branch just above where we were standing. It sat there bewildered for a while before trying it’s wings again and moving branches all the while encouraged by the mother who was busily encouraging it. As a reward for its effort she brought in a beetle and then a praying mantis both of which were promptly swallowed.

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I don’t know if three hatchlings is common for Sacred Kingfishers, but I was no mean feat for the mother to successfully feed and raise three youngsters. Now they have left the nest the hard part begins, as she tracks and shepherds and teaches them how to survive in the harsh Australian bush.

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I think you will all agree, she is a truly superb mother!!

 

 

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