There is a lot happening. Tne war in Syria rumbles on., Ukraine disintegrates, children are kidnapped in Nigeria and drown in South Korea, a plane disappears over the China Sea, a bunch of drunks called UKIP are about to run the country. Nearer to home Leo is about to start his own business, Adelaide sets up home with her boy friend in far away Sydney, grandchildren are popping up all over the family and there are the daily trips to the Royal Marsden.
But I am looking out of cousins Ollie and Legs window in Suffolk. Here on their small lake is a pole. And on this pole is a kingfisher. Rome in Tiber melts. Time is suspended, life focuses on this most perfect of birds. Small wonder that the poet W. H . Davies writes “it was the Rainbow that gave thee birth.” The rainbow mating with the most beautiful of the Gods. And if it is hypnotic just sitting there waiting for a catch , when it flies it has the magic of Tinkerbelle and the mystery of art itself. The brief glimpse of such beauty in flight is what gives this bird its capacity to inspire awe The lightening flash of colour as the bird flies just above the water is such a sight that many believe it is a sight which is reserved only for the righteous. It can only be an inkling of the beauty of heaven but what an insight.
But we are not alone in thinking that there is something totally magical about the bird.The Halcyon is a bird of Greek legend and the name is now commonly given to the European Kingfisher. The ancients believed that the bird made a floating nest in the Aegean Sea and had the power to calm the waves while brooding her eggs. Fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected when the Halcyon was nesting – around the winter solstice, usually 21st or 22nd of December. The Halcyon days are generally regarded as beginning on the 14th or 15th of December.
The source of the belief in the bird’s power to calm the sea originated in a myth recorded by Ovid. The story goes that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone, who was married to Ceyx, the king of Thessaly. Ceyx was drowned at sea and Alcyone threw herself into the waves in a fit of grief. Instead of drowning, she was transformed into a bird and carried to her husband by the wind.
Ironically my bird books tells me that despite the kingfisher’s rainbow of colours orange, blue and green included the individual feathers are a disappointment. The colours are not pigmental in origin but are the result of light falling on especially modified layers of cells in the feathers. Nevertheless anglers treasure the kingfishers feathers in the hope that the birds ability to catch its prey will translate to their rods. They mate well and although a particularly cold winter like 62/63 can decimate the stock, they recover. There are an estimated 6000 pairs in Britain.
Whatever ,when you see a kingfisher there is not a lot else that matters. Check out the you tube pics.