Watching and Waiting

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Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, on her favorite fishing perch. This bird is found in central and southern England, and they are currently increasing in their range in Scotland.

Image: Paul Richards [larger view].

This image is part of a lovely photoessay published recently by The Telegraph.

Read more about this species.

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This bird is found in central and southern England, and they are currently increasing in their range in Scotland.

OMG, yet another example of the horrors of global warming! Perhaps Al Gore can organize a hunting party to stop the spread of this blight.

I still remember seeing one for the first time when I was about 6, on the River Dart in Devon. One of the most beautiful birds found in Britain. (Although I have a particular fondness for the Chaffinch, too.)

When I was a child we moved to a new house with a garden that bordered a 1/4 acre pond just outside Manchester. One summer evening us children were got out of bed to see a kingfisher that was fast asleep on a twig just a few feet from the bank, lit by the setting sun. It was like a blue and orange light. That was our first sighting but they came every year with their young.

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 07 Jan 2009 #permalink

For about 5 years I lived in a house by a small river just outside NW London, a small village called Harefield nearby. The house was 1/2 mile down the canal towpath, between the canal and the river that fed it, so in a very rural setting. We had a Kingfisher family living in the Weeping Willow at the bottom of the property. Well, at least they used its boughs as spotting rests. So we often saw the flash of indescribably electric blue from the top of their wings as they dived off into the river. I am not totally sure of the physics involved, but I believe the color is the result of a diffraction effect, not a pigment. Which gives it a lustre that I never managed to capture on film. Nor does the one illustrated here give more than a pale shadow of the reality. I think part of the effect that makes it impossible to photograph is that it does not happen until focused by the eyeball.

It is quite a different looking bird to the one that lives around here in the Puget Sound. Also called a Kingfisher, similar feeding habits, but no diffraction effects and a primarily black and white color scheme.

Thanks for posting this, brings back happy memories!

Not to get into a tussle over global warming denialism, but Bob's comment is a good example of why slanted, personality-based "news" coverage from right-wing outlets is imposing a tax on the human race that our descendants will be paying for many, many generations to come.

Yes, many species will shift their ranges as a result of anthropogenic climate change. And it is increasingly clear that a significant fraction of the planet's plant and animal species -- like, half of them -- will become extinct in the next few centuries as a result of this process (among other reinforcing impacts of human activity).

But in the meantime, guys like Bob get to make jokes at Al Gore's expense. Hah hah! Silly tree huggers!

Our descendants, who will live on an impoverished planet for the rest of foreseeable human history, will fail to appreciate the humor.

Climate has always been variable, and the earth has been far warmer in the past than in Al Gore's worst nightmares. And periodic mass extinctions, whether caused by climate change or asteroid impacts, were essential in creating the variety of life forms we see today. Were it not for the last one that killed off the dinosaurs, neither we nor kingfishers would exist. It's called evolution and it's here to stay--get used to it.

And if our descendants ever cease to find Al Gore laughable (how can you even say his name without giggling?) they deserve impoverishment.