David meets Goliath…

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This is the Stork Billed Kingfisher in this story, … height est. 35cm, weight 170g, “David”

My previous blog outlined the story of shooting Stork Billed Kingfishers (SBKF) whilst practicing my Bird In Flight (BIF) technique.  During that session I managed to capture the bird hunting, catching prey, and also the process of how it treats the fish prior to eating. What I wasn’t prepared for was what happened when I had a shorter lens for handheld shooting – a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens, attached to a Canon 1DX body…

I was trying to see if I could keep a hunting and diving bird in my viewfinder the whole time, effectively panning handheld to follow the birds’ path, trajectory, dive, exit from the water and finally the flight back to its’ perch. I noticed that on this particular occasion, the bird left its’ perch in a different way, and I initially lost its’ flight path in the viewfinder as I was panning in anticipation.

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There’s something on the surface that this bird is flying towards…

I managed to get the bird back into view and focus pretty quickly and then I saw something in the water, towards which the bird was flying. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, as it was some 40 metres away at least, and I had  a relatively short lens. Then all became clear…

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Water Monitor Lizard, est. length 1.4m, weight 7-8 Kgs, “Goliath”

Water Monitor Lizards I had previously seen in this waterway were reasonably common yet I really didn’t believe a small bird would ever dream of attacking such a creature. I fully expected the bird to realise this was not a fish and fly elsewhere.

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That’s DEFINITELY not a fish!

The bird carried on towards whatever it thought it was aiming for. Did the bird think this is a really large fish? An eel maybe? A snake? I really had little idea as to what the bird was planning to do, other than I could clearly see it was purposeful and ‘on a mission’.

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You’re surely not going to attack a creature several times your size, are you?

The SBKF deliberately let out loud alarm calls  at the Water Monitor Lizard and it was at that point that I realised this bird was in no doubt as to its’ adversary and the flight towards the creature was in fact, an act of aggression. Wow! Such a small creature displaying such courage and bravado… surely this comparatively small bird could be no match for a creature as fearsome as this young, yet adult, Water Monitor Lizard? I fully expected the bird to retreat at the last moment.

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The SBKF continues to wail loudly at its’ adversary as the lizard takes evasive action, causing the smooth waters to erupt.

Still the SBKF continues on its’ path towards its’ opponent , fearless, unwavering and committed.

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The Water Monitor Lizard fully submerges as the SBKF continues on its’ foray.

Not contented with being unable to ‘formally assail’ the lizard, the SBKF arches like a fighter plane pulling ‘G’s” and banks hard to get back on a trajectory towards the lizard. Ding, Ding – Round 2!

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The SBKF instantly turns back towards its’ aggressor, to prepare for a 2nd foray…

All my initial misconceptions about this bird mistakenly attacking this lizard evaporated there and then!

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Here I come… Round 2 awaits!

Much to my surprise this feisty little bird banked sharply and proceeded to dive directly at the lizard on its’ second attack run. My camera’s buffer was now totally full and as I waited for the chance to shoot further action, the scene was over. But, I did experience something kind of incredible. I watched this brave little bird bear down on the lizard again. And then. Out of nowhere. From more than 40 metres away, I heard it. KNOCK. As if your middle knuckle had rapped a wooden fence post. The SBKF had pecked the lizard so hard… I saw the downward motion of its’ bill through my lens. And i heard that sound… from 40 metres away.

A week or so later it emerged that the SBKF was in fact nesting. And Water Monitor Lizards, despite their size, are accomplished tree climbers. Add to that a fave item on a lizards’ menu, ‘birds eggs’, and its’ clear that our heroic SBKF was in fact, protecting its’ nest and soon to hatch young, from this worthy adversary.

This is paternal care, at its’ very best. Not to mention bloody minded heroics. What a show! And the ironic thing? If I’d had the lens long enough with me to record this in detail, I would not have had the skill  to have kept the viewfinder full, nor the record shots to tell the story. I got lucky in this instance.

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A heroic little bird, against the odds…

As for Mr. Stork Billed Kingfisher?

Well, nowadays, I call him David.

Happy Days.

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