The following piece is an excerpt from my article, The Levee Revisited, which appeared in Hellbender Press some years ago. It is also included in my soon to be published book, Guardians and Other Sightings.
The kingfisher I normally see at this marsh is strangely absent from view today. I am surprised by its absence, since I see the bird on nearly every trip here.
On my return trip, walking back toward the parking lot, I heard the rattling call of the kingfisher from the willows across the water. The bird was present, but in hiding, revealed only by its unique call.
Then it lifted from the cover and flew across the water, low. It was hunting for a fish dinner. I saw the kingfisher stop and perch on a fence that ran right into the water.
The bird perched only briefly. Then it was up high, hovering over the marsh like a miniature osprey, preparing to descend and deal death to the fish below.
Only the hovering is like an osprey through. The kingfisher is not a raptor like the osprey or bald eagle. They grasp their victims in the talons of their feet and barely wet their feathers. The kingfisher hovered and dropped. The descent ended with its whole body immersed in the water. Then it emerged, with no fish in its beak, and flies across the water.
Not easily discouraged, the bird is hovered and dropped again and again. Finally it moved to the trees across the marsh, perhaps with meal in beak, though I really couldn’t tell from my vantage point.
As I left the Marsh, the bird hovered over the water yet again. I am uncertain as to whether it failed in its last attempt, or is simply hungry for more fish. In either event, the marsh will provide a feast for kingfisher, heron, egret, and duck. It provided a physical feast for the birds and a psychic feast for me as I left, happy with the day’s observations and discoveries.
As the march of progress continues to assault the natural environment the question remains, will we preserve the unique beauty of this wetland and its bird species both resident and migratory, or will they become only one more monument to “progress.”