Red Beak, Big Lunch

Black-capped Kingfiher - lunch ready by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

by Alex Vargas on December 2, 2011 · 1 comment

in Birding Asia, Digiscoping & Bird Photography

Witness how a beautiful and aggressive Black-capped Kingfisher battles hard to prepare and enjoy a big crab for lunch!

In october 2010, someone posted in my forum (birdphotoforum.com) a pretty decent image of the elusive and attractive Black-capped Kingfisher and that immediately caught my full attention. Turned out, the blue hunter was closer to my home than I could had ever wished!

I took a 20 minutes drive the same day to Bang Poo, a WWF research and environmental education station on the mudflats of southern Bangkok… This is a site pretty well known to photograph gulls in flight while Thai locals throw them some nasty smelling meat fat they sale on the pier.

With some rare gulls showing  from time to time, a nice loop trail by the mangroves and ponds to drive around, it’s a favorite weekend meet for photographers.

The Brown-headed and the Black-headed Gulls are present by the hundreds all the time from the pier

Brown-headed Gull - molting by Alex vargas

Brown-headed Gull - molting by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Heuglin’s Gull, an uncommon winter visitor

Heuglin's Gull - 1st Winter by Alex Vargas

Heuglin's Gull - 1st Winter by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

My plan was to get there and check the perch with my friend who happened to be at the site when I called him, then, return the following morning and hope the bird will use that particular perch to get my own frames.

As we approached, the bird was sitting on its high perch and that “photog fever” struck again!… I decided to try right at the moment. My friend left me there thinking that I was dunce to get into my portable blind at mid day with a tremendous humid-heat and with the slimmest of chances for the bird -I had just flushed- to comeback…

I called my wife to explain my new plan and only said: “I’ll call you later“, as the bird flew in calling and landed in front of my blind as the most beautiful surprise of the week!

Black-capped Kingfisher - 1 by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - 1 by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

It took me longer to paint a smile than to erase it from my face, as the guy only gave me the sweet and sour taste of a couple of shots and took off like the wind!… “Oh no“, I thought, “please comeback baby“!…When I looked back into my camera and realized the frames had too much of the harsh light of the sunny hour in them, I had this funny -well funny now- rush of adrenaline and hysteria!… was it ever going to return?… was it gonna take 3 hours to return?… should I give up and return early next day?… I was kind of lost and decided to do what all smart, independent and decisive man would do: I called my wife!… “you need to be here by 4pm to go shopping for your daughter’s shoes“… great news! (I hate shopping!)… well, that’s it -I thought- I’ll stay here ’til 3 pm, whatever happens

The heat inside the blind was incredible and I wasn’t prepared for it… no more than a cold can of coke that lasted 45 LONG minutes and my will started to shake. Watched my wash and as incredible as could seemed, it was already 2pm… I wasn’t going to give up!… played a bit with my phone, looked at the perch every 30 seconds and made all kind of mental calculations for my escape plan to avoid shopping that evening… I was actually pretty entertained.

In my 9487654389 check on the perch, I saw with the corner of my eye a shade on the left, what turned out to be my regarded friend coming up to make me happy, but this time, he didn’t come alone!

Black-capped Kingfisher - with big cab by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - with big crab by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Oh my!!!… how was this bird planning to swallow such a big prey?!, I couldn’t help to wonder…  It turned around and gave me a lesson on how to eat “crab on the rocks“… or “in the woods”, I should say!
Simply started to “beat the crab out of the crab” against the perch… protecting its sharp eyes with the lid…

Black-capped Kingfisher - crab beat by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - crab beat by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Black-capped Kingfisher - beating the crab by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - beating the crab by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

When it thought it was ready, made the first attempt to swallow the bulky body, but it had a hard time and got to try beating it a bit more, as a section of one leg made it impossible to get it down.

In this image you can see the actual very last piece of limb falling down

Black-capped Kingfisher - last limb by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - last limb by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Ok, now lunch was -really- ready (please see first image at the top), but swallowing it wasn’t gonna be that easy, I thought… and boy… I was SO wrong!… Please watch the video and amaze yourself on how easy it was in the end!

Once the meal was done, my colorful friend was ready to get all the mud from hunting away and took a couple of quick splashes at the bottom of the perch

Black-capped Kingfisher - wet by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - wet by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

…a bit of preening here and there…

Black-capped Kingfisher - preening by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - preening by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

Black-capped Kingfisher - more preening by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - more preening by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

and it was looking neat again, with that great beak looking like new!

Black-capped Kingfisher by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2010

It was a beautiful day (for the hunter and me… not for the crab, of curse)!

 

Happy Bird-Photo Adventures!

 

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  • Ken Wilson

    Beautiful photos of a very pretty bird. Thanks Alex, Ken Wilson

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