The Kingfisher Folly

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At last! Spring has sprung on the canals of Britain. At least there is evidence here around my marina. It seemed a long time coming even though winters here in England….in the south anyway….are not as harsh as in my other adopted country, Canada. Still, it has been cold here this year and April was a washout as far as anything Springlike goes. Yes, the daffs came out early and a few Spring flowers survived, but we had to have the wood burning stove on nearly continuosly throughout April.

All that has changed. May, so far, has given us all hope of better weather to come. As I write this on the 9th of May, it is a respectable 21C at noon. Yesterday it was 27C. Signs of Spring are everywhere….leaves on trees, flower beds, bees buzzing about, tree blossoms perfuming the air and baby ducks peeping. It all seems to come out of nowhere and very quickly once the warm weather and sunshine arrive.

My neighbour Eddie poked his head in at the back of our boat last week, another glorious day, and said he was going up the cut a ways to take some photographs. For some time now he has trolled the cut to get that perfect photo of a Kingfisher. The elusive bird has evaded Eddie’s lens as if it were doing so on purpose. I believe that to be the case. Plenty of other foul to shoot (photographically speaking), just no Kingfisher.

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A coot and her baby.

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A heron in the reeds

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A tern enjoying the sunshine

Evidences were everywhere….of Spring, not Kingfishers….giving everyone hope of a fresh start. Fruit blossoms, willow trees, spring flowers and all sorts greeted us along the cut with an aroma that picked up our spirits and gave colour to what had been a rather dull winter. We were full of the joys of Spring. Except Eddie. He had one focus….that damned Kingfisher. There would be no joy until one was found and filmed.

Mile after mile we walked, further than originally intended, hoping to catch even a glimpse of the wretched bird. And nowhere could the phantom creature be found. There were times we thought we heard one, but that turned out to be something else. Eddie began leaving the towpath to explore marshes and ponds. He showed me all the places where the flaming foul would frequent. Nothing. Meanwhile, the rest of us were trying to take in the flora and fauna all around us.

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England has the most beautiful Springs….usually….and none more noticeable than along the cut (the canals). This is where nature has every chance of survival and the natural habitat is left to look after itself. People whose homes back onto the canals usually maintain lovely gardens to enhance the views. And England stays green, even in the winter. The leaves may fall in the autumn, leaving trees bare, but the green remains everywhere else.

People walking and cyclists cycling fill the towpaths with human life. Most respect the flora and fauna about them. A dance ensues between walkers and cyclists, but that’s another subject entirely. When the good weather comes, everyone is out and about, especially on the towpath. We encountered walkers, talkers, joggers, babies in strollers….accompanied by mums and dads of course….bike riders, fishing folk, boaters, gongoozlers, the lot. A cacophony of sound and colour.

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Horses drinking by the canal

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Cricketers Cricketing

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Chatters chattering

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Carp near the surface

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Dog enjoying the sunshine

The most exciting news about Spring around the marina is the family of ducks taking up residence in a duck house at the end of a jetty near us. All of a sudden we had 12 little ducklings skittering behind mum, going from boat to boat looking for food. The little peepers have no fear. Not a good thing really. Their mum made up for their lack of fear. She kept the little ones close and in line. Stragglers were rounded up by mum with a sharp peck. Dad swam around the periphery making sure the coast was clear for his kids. Sometimes it seemed he couldn’t care less and swam off to do his own thing….typical male.

The second day only eleven had survived the night. Foxes are on the prowl. Herons pop in and out of the marina looking for food. Baby ducks are prime targets. The third day eleven were still on the go. The pesimist in me says it would be a miracle if half a dozen made it. Three is more likely. We’ll just have to wait and see. The more independent they become, the more they’ll start wandering further from home base and into danger. A lady across the marina has taken it upon herself to look out for the brood. But she can’t be there every waking minute. Stay tuned.

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Mum and ducklings near my boat

The walk with Eddie went on and on. The original goal was to walk to The Fishery pub by a lock in Hemel Hempstead. We would have lunch then head back to the marina. But after a nice lunch and the weather being so fine, we agreed with Eddie to go on. Winkwell was the new objective, past the lock where a boat had sunk a couple of weeks before. We were going to stop at the swing gate beside a very old pub. Three of us did….Eddie went on. I bought him a half pint of ale thinking he’d join us very soon. He didn’t.

Half an hour later Eddie showed up, quite distraught. He didn’t even notice the ale in front of him. No Kingfisher. His partner Miriam had cheekily photo-shopped a Kingfisher on a branch, telling Eddie she had seen one earlier and captured it on film. Eddie was beside himself. Gutted he was. Until he smelled a rat. He said the colours were not typical of a Nikon camera. We all laughed….most of us anyway. We had walked nearly 5 miles with no Kingfisher and 5 miles back still with no Kingfisher. A disasterous day for photographer Eddie.

The weary band hobbled back into the marina late afternoon. It had been a walk too far, but we survived. The only thing left to do was drink copious amounts of wine to dull the pain and remind ourselves what a glorious Spring day it had been. Wherever you are Kingfisher, Eddie will find you….oh yes, he will find you.

River Kingfishers

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