King of Fishing

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I am intently looking around the foggy-grey landscape or to be precise, lakescape of Sakhiya Sagar (at Madhav National Park in Madhya Pradesh State of India) while enjoying the warmth of morning Sun, on a chilly winter morning. The lake is said to be full of crocs but I am not able to see any. It is too cold for them to emerge as yet to Sun themselves.


It’s mostly grey around over the lake, at other end I see a gang of Cormorants, may be 50 floating together, while four-five would randomly rise from the surface and fly ziz-zag near the group along with some egrets. It was quite far off. So not clear if they are making use of the movement to catch some food as it comes to surface or in air. It was certainly surprising to find the species in gregarious formation.


Suddenly, I notice action, nearer home. Just below where I am standing, is a small boat landing / boarding platform. It is build of colourful plastic blocks, entirely unsuitable for a wildlife reserve – unethical and distasteful. On the rope railing of the platform lands a small brightly coloured bird.


I am very easily able to identify, it is Common Kingfisher. I am sure even a layman would be able to identify it is a kingfisher, particular species beside.


Though this is a small, sparrow sized bird, with short stumpy tail, but its bright blue-green upper parts with rusty under parts with a dash of white in eye liner and chin and straight pointed long bill make it conspicuous.


Conspicuous kingfisher finds a place in the poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame’. ‘Catches fire’ is the bright radiance of the plumage as light falls on it.


At the moment, it is hugely satisfied guy. Its holding a fish crosswise too large for its size in the beak – true to its name, it is king fisher.


I am not equipped for bird photography e.g. high telephoto zoom along with camera mounted on a mono or tripod, but the situation attracts me to take few pot shots.


Soon the fish is adjusted in the beak and popped into the mouth, head first. It is nothing like ‘the quarry is battered to pulp and swallowed,’ as mentioned in ‘The Book of Indian Birds’ (1941) by Salim Ali. Salim Ali’s observation is three quarters of a century old. Those days, it used to be leisurely meals, now-a-days its fast food culture.


It is a wonder, how such a small bird could swallow such a large fish! I take few shots because the bird is in the process of adjusting itself with a heavy diet.


It seems some more adjustment is required to accommodate the large prey – soon the fisher ejects a jet of white stuff (dropping)!


Common kingfisher, though not so common, is an attractive species found darting across water surface of a lake or pond, uttering a share and shrill chi-chec…At times, for catching prey, it suddenly drop from its perch, bill foremost, disappearing below the surface and soon emerging with a fish in its bill – be on lookout for the magical act.



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