Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feb 16, 2010 Hart Lake, Wildlife Safari, Winston, OR

Note: Hart Lake is a pond, about the size of a big grocery store. It was created as part of the wetlands associated with Wildlife Safari where we are docents. Many native species take advantage of this large drive-through park.

This kingfisher is most co-operative for me. He has been sitting still for over half an hour. Since Dale is photographing, he’d like more action. The kingfisher must have just fed when we arrived. He isn’t taking any interest in the water beneath. I drew him standing and now he is getting more comfy, fluffing his breast feathers and snuggling down over his little toes. He barely moves, a wonderful opportunity for me to draw.

Hart Lake is a mellow spot this sunny ‘winter’ day. Hard to call Feburary in western Oregon ‘winter’ since the grass is lush green and daffodils are opening. A noisy pair of Canada geese fly in for a noisy splash bath and a pied-billed grebe fishes quietly. The grebe comes up with a minnow that looks too big to swallow. No problem. Several ring-necked ducks are here too.

Finally our kingfisher is perking up. He eyes the water below from his lazy position. Stands and smoothes his crest back a little … and drops like a rock into the water. No catch, but that is good news for us as long as he continues to hunt from this long dead oak snag. This is our favorite perch for him to sit on. The snag stands not too near and not too far, drowned in the water when the pond was made.

Dale’s photo (isn’t digital wonderful) shows me something too quick for my eye, much less my pen. As he dove, the kingfisher adjusted his trajectory by flaring and twisting his tail and by flaring one wing. What a great twist! (Dale showed me the photo in the car and this sketch drawn from the photo after we got home).

This little guy is either has a rotten success rate or is catching such tiny minnows that they go down with one flick. During past winters we have spent many hours kingfisher watching here. Usually the success rate is high and the prey large enough to trigger several whacks before swallowing. Heavy rains and construction have muddied the waters. Visibility may be hampering his efforts.

Many dives later the kingfisher flies over to the little island in the middle of Hart Lake, probably to his pooping pole. He slipped by me while I was drawing and would have pooped immediately upon landing. The kingfisher we watched last winter always went over to the island to poop, and always pooped on land, not into the water.


  1. I love your kingfisher drawings and the commentary, too, Elva! It felt as though I was there with you and Dale, watching!

  2. Elva, have recently discoveredy your wonderful nature art on 100 Paintings and (flickr too, I think) I so admire your work, and your description. I've never seen a Kingfisher in 'real life'. This was fascinating. Thank you for your careful notes. What a wonderful pairing your eyes/drawings and your husbands camera make in documenting the lovely details. Thank you and blessings! Kate

  3. Dale (and you) was so lucky to be able to get photos of a kingfisher! We have plenty of them around here but every time I've tried to get a shot, my subject flies away instantly.

    Smart kingfishers not to poop where their food comes from!