The nest burrow is located on the River Trent in mid Staffordshire, in an area of the river where erosion has created a vertical face of exposed sand. You may notice that there are 3 holes in the bank. This picture was taken in 2012 and the active nest is the one on the right (pretty much in the centre of the picture) with the guano stains below it. The middle hole is what remains of the burrow that was dug out by mink the previous year and on the left is another disused burrow.
Although nest burrows are occasionally re-used, Kingfisher’s will usually excavate a new burrow for each brood, digging two or even three burrows in a season, presumably because a used burrow is a bit unhygienic (the nest chamber is filled with tiny fish bones regurgitated by the young, and the tunnel floor is coated with guano) . Unsurprisingly, the first thing the adult birds do when exiting the nest while feeding the chicks is to dive into the water for a bath.
The sites that Kingfisher’s choose to nest in can be quite precarious, and often change each year as a result of erosion. Because our nest site is in a field being used by cattle, a fence has been placed around the area of bank being used by the Kingfishers, this is to prevent cattle from stoving in the bank while jostling to reach the water. I’ve seen an entire bank collapsed in this way, demolishing a Kingfisher nest, and I assume this sort of thing must happen a lot, so it’s a relief to know that this site is protected.
As well as being under threat from cattle, bank erosion is also prevalent when the river is in flood and you can see the tide marks below the nest burrow where the level has risen and fallen. In the event of a serious flood the level can get a lot higher, and during the severe flooding in 2012 the entire bank was submerged, washing away a clutch of eggs. Even when flooding is not so severe, rising water levels can still be a threat, as they can undermine the bank and cause collapses.
Hopefully this bank will hold together for the next breeding season!
When working with the kingfishers the primary goal is to ensure that disturbance is kept to an absolute minimum, all of the filming and photography on this site is done from carefully positioned hides. Kingfishers are notoriously shy birds and actively avoid human contact, it doesn’t take much more than our presence, if detected, to send a kingfisher half a mile down stream, and this can obviously have serious consequences when eggs are being incubated or chicks are being reared, especially if nest sites are repeatedly disturbed. It is partly for this reason that kingfishers are a schedule 1 protected species in the UK, whose nest sites are protected from disturbance by law. If you should come across a kingfisher nest, please do not linger in the area.