It was just an ordinary summers morning! Warm, sunny and best of all dry. We were meandering up the Aylesbury Arm heading back towards the Grand Union. My partner had just entered the top lock which was empty. As I closed the bottom gates she looked around toward the gate and gazed down. As I closed the gate all the flotsam had spilled from the corner of the lock into the chamber. “What’s that down in the corner?” she queried “It looks like a bird.”
Looking closer I could see a small, bedraggled, waterlogged bird struggling to stay afloat while clinging to a floating reed. The only way I could help this little fella was to bring the water up to the top of the chamber so that I might be able to reach him. (I’m only assuming his gender of course)
As the water level rose he sat there patiently waiting for his saviour to lift him to safety. The closer he got the more I could see this was no ordinary bird but a baby kingfisher because the colour was like none I had ever seen in real life but had looked for over many years on the waterways.
As I bent down to gently scoop him up he looked up at me as if to say “You are my hero, I will love you forever.”
WRONG! Off like a shot, his little legs going like the clappers to get as far away from me as he could. “Quick get me a saucepan!” I shouted. I must have looked like a demented Apache warrior running round the lock waving my saucepan. If there had been a campfire that really would have set the scene. God, those little legs could go!
Anyway, I eventually captured my little mate. He really did look sorry for himself. Now what? I didn’t have a plan past this point. I tried to get him to cling onto a tree branch in the hope that his loving parents would find him. He didn’t have the strength to hold on for a second. I found out later that it was probably his parents who had abandoned him or he was learning to fish and failed his introduction. Apparently kingfishers are extremely territorial and will even dispose of their own fledglings. I do stand to be corrected on this issue.
So what now? Let’s put him in a bucket and take him with us and see what happens, he will live or die. This was not what I wanted for my first meeting with one of these beautiful elusive creatures
As we continued down the Aylesbury Arm I kept looking down into the bucket expecting to see two little legs pointing towards heaven. But no, he was still standing there making a mockery of the grim reaper.
The drier he got the more beautiful he became, but still he just sat there with not a flinch.
Five hours passed and we decided to try and handle him to see if we could get him from the bucket. I gingerly put my hand into the bucket to gently lift him out.
“OH NO! I’m having no more of this idiot manhandling me again.” Whoosh! Up and away like a blue dart who owned the skies. What a fantastic sight as he disappeared in a blur. Will this be the one and only time in my life that I get to see one of these beautiful creatures blessing our skies? I really do hope not!
By John Stacey