Recently I had to take a pile of old bricks to the tip. I had the hatch back door of the car open and put so many bricks in the car that the back tyres were looking flat (and the engine was labouring when I moved off.) Suddenly I saw a robin perched on the steering wheel. I scrambled to get my camera ready but it flew away. It would have made a brill painting.
You never see an ugly robin do you? You never see an ugly Kingfisher either? Even though I'm now 29 years old I've only ever seen a kingfisher twice in my life. I thought I'd try to paint one (that robin on the steering wheel inspired me.) Here it is. The general scene is based on a photograph taken at Lady Bower dam and the building in the background is loosely based on a shooting lodge in the extensive grounds of Lyme Hall.
Kingfisher data download...
Though their bright plumage and big heads make them populate human culture they're very shy and some people going through a full life without seeing one.
Their eyesight is excellent they don't move their eyes much and tend to move their head to track prey. Unlike human beings their eyes compensate for water refraction so they can judge exactly where something is in the water.
They sit on an exposed perch to hunt, swoop to catch the fish and return to the perch. They beat the fish to loosen spines and bones before swallowing. Like human beings they tend to be territorial and monogamous.
Nowadays it's an offence to take, injure or kill a kingfisher but in Victorian times they were stuffed to put in glass cases or their featured used to adorn hats.
There're about 4200 breeding pairs in Britain. It's a wonder they're still exist as many young kingfishers die within days of fledging, their first dives leaving them waterlogged so they end up drowning. The biggest killer is the cold and severe winters can lead to as many as 90% of them perishing. Due to this high mortality they usually have two or three broods a year with as many as ten eggs plopping out. New offspring fly off to make their own lives after 3–4 months.
The kingfisher doesn't have a song, though it does have a distinctive flight call, a shrill whistle. They are renowned for the disgusting states of their nests which are littered with droppings, pellets and fish bones.
They fly at only one pace: fast and straight, but they can hover when fishing.
The painting was loosely based on this scene at the Derwent Valley. The shooting lodge on the left is from Lyme Park.