Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
Vol 1. February, 1897 No. 2
I shall soon arrive from the south. I hear that all the birds are going to tell stories to the boys and girls.
I have never talked much with children myself for I never really cared for people. They used to say that the dead body of a Kingfisher kept them safe in war and they said also that it protected them in lightning.
Even now in some places in France they call us the moth birds, for they believe that our bodies will keep away moths from woolen cloth.
I wish that people would not believe such things about us. Perhaps you cannot understand me when I talk. You may think that you hear only a child’s rattle.
Listen again! It is I, the Kingfisher. That sound is my way of talking. I live in the deep woods. I own a beautiful stream and a clear, cool lake. Oh, the little fish in that lake are good enough for a king to eat! I know, for I am a king.
You may see me or some of my mates near the lake any pleasant day. People used to say that we always brought pleasant weather. That is a joke. It is the pleasant weather that always brings us from our homes. When it storms or rains we cannot see the fish in the lake. Then we may as well stay in our nests.
My home once belonged to a water rat. He dug the fine hall in the gravel bank in my stream. It is nearly six feet long. The end of it is just the kind of a place for a nest. It is warm, dry and dark. In June my wife and I will settle down in it. By that time we shall have the nest well lined with fish bones. We shall put in some dried grass too. The fish bones make a fine lining for a nest. You know we swallow the fish whole, but we save all the bones for our nest.
I shall help my wife hatch her five white eggs and shall try in every way to make my family safe.
Please tell the people not to believe those strange things about me and you will greatly oblige,
The Lone Fisherman.
Like most birds of brilliant plumage, the Kingfisher prefers a quiet and secluded haunt. It loves the little trout streams, with wooded and precipitous banks, the still ponds and small lakes, ornamental waters in parks, where it is not molested, and the sides of sluggish rivers, drains and mill-ponds.
Here in such a haunt the bird often flits past like an indistinct gleam of bluish light. Fortune may sometimes favor the observer and the bird may alight on some twig over the stream, its weight causing it to sway gently to and fro. It eagerly scans the shoal of young trout sporting in the pool below, when suddenly it drops down into the water, and, almost before the observer is aware of the fact, is back again to its perch with a struggling fish in its beak. A few blows on the branch and its prey is ready for the dexterous movement of the bill, which places it in a position for swallowing. Sometimes the captured fish is adroitly jerked into the air and caught as it falls.
Fish is the principal food of the Kingfisher; but it also eats various kinds of insects, shrimps, and even small crabs. It rears its young in a hole, which is made in the banks of the stream it frequents. It is a slatternly bird, fouls its own nest and its peerless eggs. The nesting hole is bored rather slowly, and takes from one to two weeks to complete. Six or eight white glossy eggs are laid, sometimes on the bare soil, but often on the fish bones which, being indigestible, are thrown up by the bird in pellets.
The Kingfisher has a crest of feathers on the top of his head, which he raises and lowers, especially when trying to drive intruders away from his nest.
The plumage is compact and oily, making it almost impervious to water. The flesh is fishy and disagreeable to the taste, but the eggs are said to be good eating. The wings are long and pointed and the bill longer than the head. The voice is harsh and monotonous.
It is said that few birds are connected with more fables than the Kingfisher. The superstition that a dead Kingfisher when suspended by the throat, would turn its beak to that particular point of the compass from which the wind blew, is now dead. It was also supposed to possess many astonishing virtues, as that its dried body would avert thunderbolts, and if kept in a wardrobe would preserve from moths the woolen stuffs and the like contained in it.
Under the name of “halcyon,” it was fabled by the ancients to build its nest on the surface of the sea, and to have the power of calming the troubled waves during its period of incubation; hence the phrase “halcyon days.”
A pair of Kingfishers have had their residence in a bank at the south end of Washington Park, Chicago, for at least three seasons past. We have watched the Kingfisher from secluded spots on Long Island ponds and tidal streams, where his peculiar laughing note is the same as that which greets the ear of the fisherman on far inland streams on still summer days.
Another of my favorite birds. I think most of them are, but the Belted Kingfisher is a real challenge to photograph. They must sense that your camera is on. Dan says that many photographers call it the “Devil Bird” because it is so hard to photo. See http://jimt.zenfolio.com/p703966915 by James Thiel and another photographer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnklos/3049270990/.
I think of them as having a short squatty neck and a long beak. Actually the Laughing Kookaburra is in the Kingfisher family, the Kingfishers – Alcedinidae Family. The article mentioned that the Belted Kingfisher is the only one in the U. S., but there are actually two more; the Ringed and the Green Kingfishers that are found in south Texas. We have seen all three of them.
The Kingfisher – Alcedinidae family has a total of 95 members. Many of them are very colorful and again show the Lord’s Creative Hand at work. He has provided them with just the right kind of beak to snatch their meals with and even given them the ability to see their prey in the water. The distortion water gives is compensated for them.
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:18-19 KJV)
In January, I was able for the first time to get some photos of the Belted Kingfisher. Two of them were showing off and forgot someone was watching. They can hover over the water, keeping their head steady and watch for their prey. It is amazing to watch them do that. (Birdwatching Adventure – Circle B Bar Reserve – 1/16/12)
Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction
The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.
To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)
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