Female kingfisher seen in Wapping – there are two!

At 11.07 AM today a female kingfisher was spotted in addition to the existing male, Kevin. This is amazing news!

It is not known if they are a breeding pair but let’s get those fingers crossed, look after them and see what happens.

Spot the difference

Female kingfishers have an orange marking underneath their beak / bill, whereas the male kingfisher has an all black beak, see photo below.



Our entire team of Wildlife Rangers (Kingfisher Rapid Reaction Squad) was on their way to assemble some flat pack furniture but thought a quick check on Kevin was in order.

Kevin was sitting on his usual perch and keeping an eye on Mr Burns the Grey Heron who was fishing in the same spot.

After a little while another Wildlife Ranger (Hi Helen!) approached and while the Wildlife Ranger team discussed Kevin they suddenly realised that there were two kingfishers.

Dancing with joy

At this point the Wildlife Rangers broke protocol, hugged each other and literally danced with joy. (Formal reprimands will of course be issued. Standards must be maintained at all times.)

Our inept Wildlife Ranger Photography Unit failed to get a photo of the two kingfishers together but they have now been tasked with this.

Dare we hope that this might be a breeding pair? A breeding pair of kingfishers within sight of Tower Bridge (aka our local bridge)?

It it far too early to tell as breeding season is not until spring. We will talk to the Tower Hamlets ecology team and see what we can all do help things along.

According to the RSPB breeding pairs of kingfishers may not have the same territory and “If the male and the female have neighbouring territories, these may merge for the breeding season.”

All fascinating stuff.

The female kingfisher did not hang around for long and flew off south-east towards Wapping Woods via 21 Wapping Lane.

Kevin got back to doing what he does best – fishing! Photos below.

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Mr Burns and Kevin seem to have a mutual respect for each other although some rivalry over the existing fish stock may be in the offing.

But how often can you see a kingfisher and a grey heron at the same time in E1W?

Kingfisher and Grey Heron, Wapping canal, London., E1W
Kingfisher and Grey Heron, Wapping canal, London., E1W

Kingfisher: Tales from the halcyon river

If you were lucky enough to get a book voucher for Christmas here is a suggestion for how to spend it – buy a copy of ‘Kingfisher: Tales from the halcyon river’ by Charlie Hamilton James.

The book is full of amazing photos and lots of information of how kingfishers live. Essential reading.

You may well have seen Charlie at work photographing the kingfishers and otters in the river that runs through his back garden.

Wapping canal is our communal back garden of course. Not sure ‘Kevin the Kingfisher and family: Tales from the halcyon Wapping canal’ quite works as a title though.

Photo geek nonsense

For those interested here are some technical details for the photos. All shots on this post taken with a Canon 5D Mk III (borrowed for Christmas from @vickieflores – thanks!) with a Sigma 150-500 mm zoom. Other wildlife photos on this site Canon 7D Mk I. (Also borrowed from You Know Who!).

ISO usually 6,400 to obtain a shutter speed of at least 1/2000 of a second, 1/2500 better, ideally 1/4000 but light at this time of year is rubbish and in reality it is often difficult to achieve 1/1000 even at ISO 6,400. Tripod Manfrotto 055MF4 with Manfrotto 029 head. All shots are RAW, processed in Adobe Lightroom with Topaz Fusion Express 2 Noise Reducer plug-in. 

A good solid tripod is essential for this sort of work as the long lenses required are heavy and Kevin sometimes sits on his favourite perch for 15 minutes before he zooms off for fishing. Best approach is to pre-focus on fixed point where you estimate Kevin will dive in and never take you finger off the shutter because that is the exact moment something will happen. 

The most important thing is not the camera geek stuff but understanding the behaviour of the bird. That obviously takes time to acquire.

Oh and very warm technical outdoor clothing (Berghaus / North Face) and of course the most important piece of kit – a comfortable pair of shoes. 


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