Posted 4th Aug 2017
Lead image courtesy of Jon Hawkins / Surrey Hills Photography
Picture a summer's day - blue skies, the wind blowing in the willow trees, damselflies flitting around on the water's edge, and the sound of running water
There's little better than being near the riverside - but whilst taking in the buzzing of the bees, the hiccuping of the moorhens and the song of the willow warbler, you should also listen out for a high-pitched, urgent 'peep peep peep' piping. When you hear this, it's time to quickly look up and down the river, as a kingfisher will be flying past.
For such a brightly coloured bird, the kingfisher is surprisingly tricky to spot. Spending much of his time sitting quietly on a perch in the shade of overhanging branches, his bright orange breast will be proudly on show. However, when he's disturbed, the kingfisher transforms. A blazing streak of electric blue, which skims fast and low over the water's surface, he will speed past, 'peep peep'ing, before swerving round a bend in the river and out of sight.
How to do it
Most people are surprised by how small a kingfisher is when they initially see one. Only slightly bigger than a house sparrow, if you're lucky enough to get a closer view, you should pay close attention to it's dagger-like bill. The male's will be all black, while the female wears red lipstick on her lower mandible.
If you're unable to get to one of the special places listed below, you can see kingfishers on almost any river, canal, park lake or gravel pit. Sometimes, they will even fish at large garden ponds - you simply just have to keep a good look out, and your fingers crossed.
You are almost guaranteed to see a kingfisher when you visit Lackford Lakes in Suffolk, often from the visitor centre as you enjoy a coffee or ice cream. The landscape of lakes, reedbed, meadow and woodland makes Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Lackford Lakes a wildlife oasis, offering close-up encounters with nature all year round. The reserve, trails and hides are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Buckinghamshire, College Lake
Cambridgeshire, The Great Fen
Derbyshire, Hilton Gravel Pits
Hampshire, Blashford Lakes
Hertfordshire, Tring Reservoirs
Lancashire, Mere Sands Wood
Lincolnshire, Deeping Lakes
Lincolnshire, Far Ings
London, Crane Park Island
Norfolk, Cley Marshes
Norfolk, Hickling Broad
Rutland, Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Somerset, Westhay Moor
Staffordshire, Croxall Lakes
Staffordshire, The Wolseley Centre
Yorkshire, Adel Dam
Yorkshire, Potteric Carr
Yorkshire, Wheldrake Ings
Text and information courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts