Country & Coast: Kings of the water

Brent Hardy captured this shot of battling, territorial male kingfishers
Brent Hardy captured this shot of battling, territorial male kingfishers
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WITH OUR streams and rivers improving in water quality, fish are returning to even the most unpromising situations.

The kingfisher, a bird enjoying a remarkable upturn in fortunes, is a welcome bonus, bringing sparkle to the waterways.

This azure jewel of river, lake and pond is turning up across Yorkshire from the countryside into the urban heartlands. A sighting, even a glimpse, gives huge pleasure to the watcher, but nowadays, the view is often much more than fleeting.

Photographer Brent Hardy captured a stunning sequence of photographs as he sat on the banks of one such river.

“I was lucky enough to spend over five hours watching a male kingfisher defend his territory from another male. It is something I have never seen before and was fascinating to watch.

“For most of the time the birds took turns to chase each other away but on two occasions they locked beaks and fell into the river fighting.”

Like many birds, especially on linear habitats like rivers, kingfishers are territorial. However, we are rarely privileged to witness the intimate interactions so closely.

The male holding territory must establish and defend a length of river, to provide food and lodgings for himself, his mate, and the brood of hungry youngsters that follows. Having secured a patch and attracted a mate, he battles against all comers; hence the bitterness and violence of territorial clashes.

So take a stroll along any of the main rivers or canals across the county, then sit quietly, and wait. You have a good chance of sighting the river king.

At this time of year, the birds are tied to their breeding sites, but later in the year and through the winter, they move off to other locations like urban park ponds and similar sites. Good places to try include the urban River Don in Sheffield, the Porter Brook in Sheffield, the Dearne in Barnsley, the Aire in Leeds, or the Ouse in York.

Really though, almost all our rivers have streams may turn up a jewel at this time of year.