A cold spring morning on the River Usk.

10th May 2017
I have been wondering how the Kingfishers have been getting on down on the river Usk near Brecon. I haven’t seen them since last autumn but it has been a mild and quite dry winter so I was hopeful they were OK. I was up at 04.30 yesterday on a clear and very cold morning with that nagging north east wind still refusing to release its grip.
I had packed all my gear into my car’s boot the night before to save time and after a quick breakfast I was on my way by 05.00. I arrived at the Kingfisher site by 05.30 and set my hide up on the river bank under some overhanging willows. I have a store of perches I keep at the river and I just dug one of them into the river bed and retreated under cover. I was very glad I had put on a couple of extra layers because it was so cold. The sun came up over the horizon and illuminated the river with a bright early morning light but although quite harsh the sunshine contained very little warmth. I zipped up all the side openings on my hide leaving only the forward aperture to look at my perch in the river.
An hour passed and I was huddled in the chair of my hide drinking a cup of coffee when I thought I’d just open one of the side flaps for a minute to look up river. In the distance I could see a large shape break the surface of the river. My first thoughts of a large fish were quickly dispelled as I could now see two Otters playing in the middle of the river. I was side on to them so I knew there wouldn’t be much chance of a photograph without disturbing them by turning the whole hide ninety degrees clockwise so I opted for a quick shot at an awkward angle and cut my losses.



I then watched as they swept past me hardly breaking the surface of the water and within a few seconds they were gone down river and out of sight. A great start to the day, any day you see Otters is a good day!
I settled back down and after some time I could now hear the familiar ‘Peeping’ of a Kingfisher as a bird flashed past my hide at speed and disappeared around the river bend. This is typical Kingfisher behaviour and this was repeated several times over the next half an hour. At this time of year the first brood of Kingfishers should be very close to fledging, typically early May, and this is what I was hoping to see, however, if there are any young birds at this site they do not appear to be out yet. There are a few reasons for this, the adults may just have been late pairing-up or indeed they may not have mated, I hope it’s the former.
Sometime later I was eating a sandwich and again looking out of the side flap on my hide when I could see a female Goosander and her young coming this time up-river, and some of the ducklings were sitting on her back to avoid paddling against the current.



This is the first time I have witnessed Goosanders doing this. It was a lovely sight because the ducklings are very cute indeed. They swam past totally oblivious of me, if you are not under cover you won’t get near these birds because they are so shy.
I was about to leave the site when I heard a Kingfisher call again and then suddenly there was an adult bird on the perch. It happens like this with Kingfishers, you hear a brief call and suddenly they are on your perch, sometimes there is no call and they just appear, you have to keep looking. This can be quite tiring over a period of hours because if you don’t concentrate all of the time you can miss the shot for the sake of a few seconds. It was an adult bird and I took the shot quickly before it flew off,



there should be more action as the breeding season unfolds if there are youngsters fledged. I packed-up and left as the day had turned quite warm, what a contrast from first thing.
I am going to leave it for a few weeks and then come back and see if there are any young Kingfishers around, I hope so.