Blue -river- Jewel of the South

Blue-banded-Kingfisher-male - tails up by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

by Alex Vargas on January 6, 2012 · 4 comments

in Birding Asia, Digiscoping & Bird Photography

The Blue-banded Kingfisher isn’t the most colorful of his group, but certainly it is one of the most difficult to find and photograph!

When I was coming to this side of the world, I was looking at the book in the plane and right away got amazed with the colors and crazy looks of the kingfishers. When I saw the first one (Black-capped, in Indonesia) I fell in love!… Our KF in the American Continent are beautiful and the great Ringed it’s majestic on its own right… but the red bills and iridescent game of colors of the family in this latitudes, has no match.

Black-capped Kingfisher - on green by Alex Vargas

Black-capped Kingfisher - on green by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

The Blue-banded Kingfisher isn’t an exception, and even when it hasn’t a gorgeous red beak, it is colorful and beautiful too. For me, how hard finding and photographing one actually is, makes it so unique and special, motivating me to really enjoy it the day I got lucky!

I heard of a nesting pair that was feeding a brood at Si Phangnga National Park, nearly a thousand kilometers south of Bangkok and immediately got my bio-photo-clock onwards!… My good friend Prin (from Superhide) showed a few frames up close of the parents with prey and without thinking much, I got a few things on the bag and left early morning, next day.

When I finally got there, all tired from the long driving hours, I was aiming for an early morning when Khun Sak delivered the terrible news: the chicks got out of the nest-hole that afternoon as some other photographers witnessed… OH NO!… all that work to just get there, all that hope to even see such a cool lifer… “It can’t be” -I said to myself- “it can’t be and I’m gonna try anyway!“… Khun Sak looked at me with a “feeling-sorry-for-you-face“… He told me that it wasn’t all bad, as a pair of elusive and -also- hard to get Chestnut-napped Forktails were showing well as a consolation and in fact, it was the first time I ever got close to this birds…

Chestnut-naped Forktail - male - SPNP by Alex Vargas

Chestnut-naped Forktail - male - SPNP by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

But I wasn’t gonna let it go that easy!… I set camp in front of the spot where everyone had got such cool images and prayed for the birds to remember the perch and return somehow with the juniors to their birth place.
It was not so long of a wait for me when I heard an adult nearby and with the adrenaline pumping hard, I knew I was doing right by believing and using all my birding years of experience to wait and hope for the unprovable!

The other birder that did this journey with me from Bangkok, loose the faith after a couple of morning hours and decided to go away and use the time better with the forktails, leaving me alone in the riverside, waiting. He was gone barely 10 minutes when a young -male- adult that I was expecting to see in the perch at the other side of the stream, flew and landed on a log so incredibly close to me, that I could only fit half of his body in my frame!

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male - portrait by Alex Vargas

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male - portrait by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

This time, the desperation to find a way of getting the whole bird in my pictures, overcame the adrenaline and after a few fantastic-sharp portraits, I decided it was worth the risk!… I was into my -superhide- tower blind (which you can use standing) and slowly backed up into the understory, sweating every tiny step like if there was no other. After 4 or five little but agonizing steps back (just imagine: pushing the blind with my head and shoulders, with the lens -set in the tripod- in one hand and with the chair in the other), I finally got the distance barely enough and wasn’t going to push it a millimeter anymore!

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male by Alex Vargas

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

I just couldn’t -and still can’t- believe all these blessings altogether in a moment… The odds for the bird showing, where pretty narrow already, but the bird staying and not leaving forever while I was moving back into the vegetation… well, I guess my birding-guardian-angel priced the big faith I used, in big fashion…

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male - tails down by Alex Vargas

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male - tails down by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

But that’s not all!!!… Suddenly, the bird started calling and moving funny… then, mom -another young adult- and the youngest chick did actually turned up and perched at the other side of the stream, to complete the magical story of one of my coolest lifers’ encounter ever!… Birding can be and should be… overwhelming!

Blue-banded Kingfisher - female by Alex Vargas

Blue-banded Kingfisher - female by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

Blue-banded Kingfisher - chick by Alex Vargas

Blue-banded Kingfisher - chick by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

On the way back to Bangkok, we stopped in Wanakorn to get some Bee-eaters and completed a perfect and productive -long driving- trip, but that’s another story and you can actually find it following this link:

http://birdingblogs.com/2011/alexvargas/blue-throated-bee-eater-a-colorful-sacrifice

Just a few -related- links:

http://www.thaibirding.com/locations/south/spn.htm

http://www.bcst.or.th/index.php?lang=en

http://superhide.multiply.com/photos/album/62/62

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male - tails half way by Alex Vargas

Blue-banded Kingfisher - male - tails half way by Alex Vargas, Thailand 2011

 

Happy Bird-Photo Adventures!

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  • Pat ODonnell

    Wow! Congrats on getting that much wanted kingfisher! Those photos of the forktail are also pretty darn good. Thanks for sharing your images from Thailand.

    • http://www.pbase.com/alex_vargas/raptors_owls_nightjars AlexVargas

      Hey Pat!… thanks for your comment!

      I hope to see you in CR, next april… cheers!

  • Cedeprudente

    Great capture, it is one of the difficult one to photograph here in Sabah, Malaysia. 

  • http://alpinebirds.blogspot.com DaleForbes

    the kingfishers are cool (especially the video at the top), but it was the forktail photo that took my breath! wow!

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