How do you tell a female kingfisher from a male? The simple answer is lipstick! Male kingfishers have a fully black beak whilst females have red on the lower mandible, or as one of our staff members handily put it, the females wear lipstick! There has been a sharp increase in kingfisher sightings at the basin in recent weeks, and by using this method of identification we have been able to deduce that we have a male and female, most probably a pair.
These master hunters have been seen using the numerous perches in front of the Visitor Centre, with sightings in each of the last 7 days. These perches are ideally situated for the kingfishers to keep an eye out over the water, pinpointing any potential prey, in most instances small fish. Once spotted, the kingfishers take to the air and hover over the water, before swooping down at speed with great accuracy, usually resulting in a successful catch. The secret to the kingfisher’s success lies in their eyes, they have 2 pairs of foveas, which are the areas of highest visual acuity, in each. They use their strongest fovea to keep track of their prey when they are above the water but then change to a second one whilst immersed in the water, allowing it to continue tracking its potential meal. Once caught, they return to their original perch and beat their prey against it, finally manipulating and swallowing it, a behaviour that has been observed on numerous occasions here at the basin.
Other sightings on the reserve in the past week have included 350 Golden Plover, a juvenile Arctic Skua, a Red-throated Diver and the first winter sightings of Scaup, 22 being seen on the 4th. We still have over 60,000 Pink-Footed Geese on the reserve, with an official count being carried out next Sunday, to establish the exact number.
Visitor Centre Assistant Manager.