Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Kookaburra Kingfisher

It's been great to get on the water more, as the weather is cooling into what promises to be a nice, mild autumn. When I was a kid, we used to call this kind of weather 'Indian summer' -- short warm rain squalls, golden bright afternoons and the feeling that winter was a million miles away. It's great to go kayaking in this weather, since there are fewer people on the beach. The water is beginning to clear and that makes it interesting to noodle along the shoreline.

It was so calm and bright a couple of times this week that when I watched a heron flying out to go fishing, I lost him in the sun and had to watch his reflection instead on the sea's surface. The belted kingfishers that live along the shore in Cadboro Bay come out to scold me along -- they swoop ahead of me and once I pass them, dart back where I've been. Check out this photo I borrowed from a bird identification website, showing a female belted kingfisher! That site also has a recording of the kingfisher's distinctive call.

This photo is from the All About Birds website by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The kingfishers remind me of photos I've seen of kookaburras in Australia. The kookaburras are larger, and their call is more like a monkey's laughter than a kingfisher's churr and chitter. So my song for this week on the water has been one we used to sing with the twins: Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he... So yeah, I had to go find a video of a zookeeper talking about kookaburras.

Under my kayak, there are so many anemones of various kinds -- white, pinkish and brownish -- that I resolve to let this be the season of anemones. Just as two years ago was the summer of ducks in which I learned to tell a teal from a merganser and a widgeon, this fall and winter I will try to learn the names of various anemones. I wonder if the orange star-shapes I saw in the shallows at low tide were another kind of anemone... more happy researching to do!

When I turned round to paddle back, there was my trail left on the calm water: a series of little bubbles, any one of which or clump of which wouldn't draw attention. But a careful look would see the dot-and-dash Morse code of where my paddle had disturbed the surface. Maybe a light film of algae or plankton makes the bubbles last longer than a few moments.

The kingfisher scolded me again, then she swooped down low enough to pass through the islets of the little rock garden, skimming the water. No trail left on the water by the bird's passage!

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