I have been writing a short piece in the Grantham Canal Society newsletter each month for the last three years – I thought it would be fun to share these little snippets on here! If you would like to subscribe to the digital newsletter which drops into your inbox once a month, or look at older issues, visit their website here:
February 2017 – Kingfishers
If the weather is mild, then February is the month in which kingfishers will begin their courtship. Kingfishers lead a solitary existence in the winter – catching their prey can be hard as high water, poor visibility and the tendency of fish to move into deeper water all make fishing difficult. For this reason, a kingfisher will hold their own territory, often including waters not frequented in the summer, in order to maximise their chances of survival.
Once the first signs of spring begin to appear, pairs will court and share a territory once more, ready for the breeding season ahead. Kingfishers typically excavate nest tunnels in vertical banks, digging back 60-90cm and laying a clutch of eggs at the end. Through the summer, the pair can raise 2-3 brooks in quick succession, spending little time with the young once they have fledged in their haste to start the next clutch.
February and March are excellent times to spot kingfishers along the canal – the process of forming pairs and negotiating territories makes them active and vocal. All this whilst the leaves are yet to burst on the trees makes it easy to see that flash of electric blue zipping low along the water. If you’re trying to spot them on the banks, look on overhanging branches and think of their orange-brown chests as well as the typical blue of the backs – if they are facing towards you then this is what you need your eye in for!