It's going to be something like a premiere. I've never written much about photography or how to photograph a certain type of animal. Actually, I haven't written much about anything, but I'm trying to change that now. I want to share some experiences and tips and help you with your photography. Also, to educate you on how to approach photography and what not to do to behave responsibly towards nature. Because in reality, we should at best be only observers and not interfere with the lives of those we want to photograph.
The kingfisher is a cute, agile, and brightly colored bird that inhabits the banks of our ponds, streams, and rivers. Lately, it has been doing well. Perhaps it's because the environment it lives in is changing for the better, but it's certainly due to the milder winter, which means that more and more individuals can handle it without any problems. Nowadays, you can come across the kingfisher almost everywhere. Seeing or catching a glimpse of it is a bit difficult, but you can definitely hear it in the morning and evening hours. Its piercing voice will unmistakably indicate that you are in its territory. It often flies low over the water and is really fast. It's not the most skillful flyer in maneuvering. It often flies straight and at high speed. Its flight is therefore straightforward and quite predictable. It does not often change direction or flight height.
The kingfisher is a territorial bird that inhabits and protects a certain area. It occupies and regularly returns to it. If the water does not freeze, it stays there all year round, not just during the breeding season. It mainly feeds on small fish and small amphibians. It hunts from a branch over the water, diving headfirst from about one meter or more under the surface for its prey. I have also seen that it is capable of hunting from the air. Similarly to, say, a bird of prey, it can almost stop in the air and watch for its prey under the surface before diving for it. However, this method of hunting exhausts it a lot, and you won't see it hunting like this very often.
If you manage to hear or even spot a kingfisher, you have a great chance that it regularly occurs in the area within a distance of no more than a kilometer along the stream, or on a pond or lake. It is best if you manage to find its burrow. They make their burrows in sandy embankments approximately one meter or more above the water level. Their presence can be confirmed by droppings at the entrance to the burrow. I definitely recommend not disturbing them near the burrow, and not interfering with the surrounding environment, which could stress them and in the worst case, they could leave the spot. But by finding the place where they decided to nest, you will have the opportunity to observe them and learn about their habits. At what time and how often they fly out of the burrow, where they prefer to fly or where do they perch near the burrow. Both birds spend minimal time in the burrow. If one of them is sitting on eggs or warming up the young, the other is usually nearby, unless it is hunting elsewhere.
During the whole time I've been photographing Kingfishers,
I've found two ways to get close to them.
By observing, you can figure out where the Kingfisher likes to perch or hunt. He likes to stick to a certain routine, so if you see him in a certain spot often, you will probably have luck seeing him there again. If that spot is within the range of your lens and offers an interesting shot, you're halfway there. Then, just choose the best time of day for lighting, grab some camouflage, and wait for him.
Actually, as far as camouflage goes, you don't have to go overboard. Kingfishers mostly react to movement. Anything stationary, no matter what shape or color, doesn't bother him. He doesn't even react to sounds. I don't know how, but it happened to me once that I forgot to turn off the loud ringer on my phone, and just when I had the Kingfisher where I wanted him, my phone started ringing. To my surprise, the Kingfisher didn't even flinch, and he didn't react to the sound at all. Since then, I sometimes even talk to him when he poses for me... well, honestly, it's more like a monologue, because he doesn't pay any attention to me, or maybe he's just the most ignorant bird I know :D Actually, I don't really know :) In any case, what will definitely scare him away is any movement.
Photo blind or any kind of camouflage is not necessary for photography. However, I prefer to have free space for any movement, and for that reason, I don't take photos without camouflage. It's important to do what works for you. If you can endure without moving, or if you get a photo blind, or at least a camouflage net that sufficiently masks your movement.
While with this method of photography, you will be limited by the current environment and the preferences of the Kingfisher where it perches, there is still a way that offers you more opportunities to be more creative when taking photos.
The Kingfisher is a curious bird, and if there is anything it can't resist, it's a completely new branch that provides it with the opportunity to hunt from it. It's like a magnet for them. They can't help it, and if you put an obstacle in their path, such as a branch stuck in the middle of a stream or a visible spot near the edge of a pond, where they frequently fly, be sure that they will get their attention. They simply cannot resist this, and if they fly around the branch 2-3 times without noticing it, either you have stumbled upon a faulty piece, or they are in a rush that day and don't stop to try out the beautiful view that their new perch offers them.