It’s Good to be the King

I’d like to say things are starting to settle down around here, but that wouldn’t exactly be accurate. This Saturday I once again toe the line in hopes of getting the 50K trail run check on the life list. If you recall, my first attempt back in July didn’t exactly go that well … and that is likely an understatement of the epic level of failure that was (link here). Fortunately, we are past the super hot days of summer and the current forecast looks like a very cool 40-50’s day (with a dip into the 30’s the night before). So, I do have that going for me and likely a new angel on my shoulder to help me through the rough points. They have promised me there will be NO box fans at the aid station so bloodletting should be at a minimum ha. Immediately after that is our annual Halloween party having been postponed due to our recent loss. Get past that and we are downhill to the end of what has turned out to be a year I’d rather forget. While I am waiting for Linda to finish up her cardio rehab for the day, decided to be productive – watching other people workout has to rate up there with one of the most boring ways to spend an hour second to maybe playing Tic-Tac-Toe against yourself.

Belted Kingfisher found at South Padre Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

Say hello to the King of South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. We met this specimen on our trip down the Texas Gulf Coast back in December 2016 (which puts this almost 3 years old if my high levels of education serves me right). This dude (it is the male of the species) was hanging out on a sign near the end of the boardwalk passing the day taking mental pictures of all the flightless humans walking by.

Belted Kingfisher found at South Padre Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

Hit the jump to catch a couple more shots of the Belted Kingfisher.

As far as Belted Kingfishers go, this one was extremely tolerant of my presence and more importantly of having a large black bazooka aimed at it snapping picture after picture. Take a few shots, execute a stealthy foot zoom, exercise the shutter button, another foot zoom attempt .. rinse and repeat until I was happy with whatever made it into the tin with the goal of getting a least a few shots with some glint in the eye.

Belted Kingfisher found at South Padre Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

In a humbling admission, I did have a bit of a birding screw up some 20 minutes after taking these shots. Figuring the tin was nice and full of the Belted, headed out to explore more of the boardwalk. Another photographer spotted me and called out if I had spotted the Kingfisher that was hanging out in the area. Always appreciate it when a fellow birder offers up sightings to share. Informed him I was just taking shots of a female at the end of the boardwalk but was hoping to find a male to add to the tin. That is when he made a curious expression (similar to the one you just probably made), wished me luck and carried on. Pondered on that a bit while walking further down the boardwalk and then realized my idiot mistake. “You fool, that WAS the male” which was correctly identified for my readers earlier. I was so accustomed to the males generally being more colorful I mistakenly swapped the sexes as the female Belted has rust/orange coloring on the sides of the breast. Suspect there is a blog post somewhere recounting this embarrassing moment as a laugh for all those real birders out there – sigh.

Belted Kingfisher found at South Padre Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

Luckily, I do have some shots of the female Belted Kingfisher from another encounter earlier in the trip at Conroe, Texas. Specifically at the William Goodrich Jones State Forest. There was a small pond near the parking lot that was being enjoyed by a flock of Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks (link here). While taking shots of those, noticed what appeared to be a low flying missile going back and forth across the length of the pond. It didn’t take long to figure out what it was, as soon as the wing beat exposed the rust coloring it was obvious a female Belted was hunting the waters.


Belted Kingfisher found in Conroe, Texas December 2016

If you feel you need some work on your arm strength, I highly recommend grabbing some large glass and spending some time trying to get a decent shot of one of these aerial acrobats. Forget about snapping with a stationary camera. The minute you see it come into the glass it will be gone long before your mind triggers your finger to press. Best approach I’ve learned is to a) keep both eyes open (hoping you do that already), b) catch it out of the corner of your free eye and start panning in the direction the bird is headed while c) adjusting the best you can for vertical height to match where you anticipate it to head once you catch up with it. Prepare to get frustrated and give a big thank you to the digital card age. Can’t imagine the wasted film trying to get these shots back in the day.

Belted Kingfisher found in Conroe, Texas December 2016

It also helps if you can work with a background that isn’t blue, especially if you are targeting a male. Unfortunately, out of shots I’m willing to let others see – can’t count the number of shots that didn’t even have a bird in it ha! Bird photography wouldn’t be half as fun if it didn’t pose a challenge from time to time. Need to wrap this up and head down to some foam rolling to get the kinks worked out prior to Saturday. Take it easy everyone and wish me luck.

7 thoughts on “It’s Good to be the King”

    1. Thanks CJ! Based on early forecasts I will not be able to blame the weather if I fail. The nice thing about the Kings is they have such a unique voice you can always tell if they are around – now finding them hanging out on the edge of the treeline can be a chore.. then you still have to find a way to get them in the tin. Hope you had/have save travels back to the adopted homeland.

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  1. Another attempt at 50k hmmmm…. I once thought of jogging 50yds after a butterfly then thought why bother.
    Belted Kingfisher oh bad memories and strange story. Are you sitting comfortably? Several years back I had a ‘mega alert’ on my rare bird pager. A Belted Kingfisher had been seen on a canal in Staffordshire (about 200 miles away). Problem it was April 1st, all fools day, turns out this was no joke it was real 100% and only the 4th recorded in the UK. It was photographed going to roost on a lake. So at mid-night the scope was in the car and I was on my way arriving before dawn. Half the country had the same idea, the village was so packed I had to park up a mile away! However come light there was no sign, during the night it had decided to fly. Several hours of waiting and searching I decided to hit the motorway and head home. On the way the pager alert, it had turned up in Yorkshire about a hundred miles north, I shook my head and carried on home, good move as it was gone in an hour.
    A couple of weeks later and it was re-discovered in the highlands of Scotland, now get this and this is weird as it gets. It was found by the son of the man who first saw it in Stafford! He was working as a chef in a riverside hotel when it turned up. Stranger still the son when young was taken by his father to see the first Belted Kingfisher for the UK in Cornwall.
    As they say “You can’t make this sh*t up” And no I wasn’t tempted to do a thousand mile round trip for a lifer!

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  2. You sound EXACTLY like Ron (Mr. 0.0) when it comes to running. Don’t you want to feel the wind rushing past you as you push yourself to the limits…. every joint in your body screaming for relief, every tendon stretched to the breaking point … hmmm, maybe I can understand that ha!

    Now the lost Belted, sounds either really fishy being that the sightings seem to be localized to a family or an incredibly example of pure luck. You had mentioned previously just how crazy the birding is over there and not surprised a bird wouldn’t stay around for that (probably warned by the local birds to high tail it out of there before those pagers start going off). I am sorry you didn’t get to see it as they are pretty interesting looking although you would have been fighting that scope to see it in flight. Thanks for stopping by B and sharing your stray Belted story – ask Ron sometime about my failed 3 hr trip up north to get the Kittiwake only to have it leave 3o minutes before I arrived .. ugh.

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