I had some real success this morning. It's great when you don't have to wait very long as well. I had got myself settled in to the hide at 5 minutes past 11, a bit late I know but I needed to attend to a few things at home before I went out. I could see immediately that the light was brilliant, it was sunny and at this time of year, not too strong. I was expectant but not particularly optimistic because I hadn't had a great amount of success with Kingfishers here in the last few weeks. I fiddled with the cover of the hide and I was just making sure that I had a clear view from the front of the hide looking out on to the branch that I had planted there a week ago and then - I could hardly believe it - there was a Kingfisher and it had prey. I had been there just 9 minutes! I quickly focused on it and I could see that it was struggling with a really big fish and I realised quickly that it was a perch (Perca fluviatilis). In my 6 or 7 years of photographing Kingfishers with prey I have never seen one with a perch. I am quite sure that it had flown specifically to the branch here, I have known them do this before. This must surely point to the fact that Kingfishers are capable of cognitive thought or how else would it remember that this branch was here? A really solid branch is very important when they have large prey as they need to beat it to soften before swallowing. It would have known that the solid branch was there and flown from the nearby pond to this spot to deal with it's prey, I think that this is remarkable and I doubt whether any real study of cognitive behaviour in Kingfishers has taken place. The bird flying to the branch here is very good news for me, it means that there is every chance that the bird will return whenever it catches large prey again.
When a Kingfisher deals with prey it will repeatedly beat it against a branch, initially to kill it but also to soften it. It's imperative that with a perch or stickleback for that matter, the sharp needle like fins are folded down before the bird swallows it, always head first. I think it is remarkable that a Kingfisher can eat prey like this because the fins of a perch have evolved to protect them from predation. They really are needle sharp as any angler will tell you. The beating of the prey is quite a vigorous affair as you can see in the picture below.
All in all a great short session.