Shri Jasnath Asan, Rajasthan, India
Photo © Shri Jasnath Asan, 2016
26 NOV 2016
The champion that was having breakfast at the Rampura irrigation pond was not me, but rather a beautiful animal by the name of Halcyon smyrnensis, alias white-throated kingfisher, alias white-breasted kingfisher, alias Smyrna kingfisher or in Hindi it is called Kilkila. What ever you call it at 28 cm in length, it is a very large kingfisher. It excels not only in size but also in the color of his plumage. His head, shoulders, flanks, and lower belly are a rich deep auburn that contrasts strikingly with a white throat and breast. He has stunningly beautiful, bright turquoise blue back, tail, and wings. As though that were not enough to render a birdwatcher speechless with awe and amazement, this kingfisher also has an ostentatious, oversized, bright red bill. The flight of the kingfisher is rapid and direct, seemingly full of strength and purpose, and as he flies he flashes striking white and blue patches on his short rounded black wings.
This species of tree kingfisher not totally tied to fishing in streams and lakes, but is often found well away from water where it feeds on reptiles, amphibians, small rodents, and even birds.
On this morning, at the Rampura pond the white-breasted kingfisher spied his breakfast; a very large, very ugly, Indian waterbug. This bug was large enough to weave dreams into cold-sweat nightmares that would scare Tim Burton, and looked as though it could carry off a small cat or unattended child. Perhaps I am exaggerating just a bit, but at 12 cm the bug served as a gigantic breakfast challenge for the mighty hunter.
Once the bug was captured, it took the kingfisher 10 minutes of thumping the bug against everything he could to subdue it. First he tried the fence post and pounded it there, next he flew to a rock and continued smashing, and finally he flew to a iron weir gate and banged it against the steel over and over again until the bug was long dead and tenderized enough to eat. However, this led to another difficult delimna. The bug’s size was close to the size of the Kingfisher’s head. After many false starts and aborted attempts, the bug finally was choked down into the gaping red mouth of this extraordinary bird, and finally at long last, the bug became the satisfying breakfast of this champion hunter.
Panchla Siddha, India
Sharon K. Schafer
I paint, photograph, and speak about wild places in an act of reciprocity that is as vital to me as heartbeat or breath.
My interest in the magic and mystery of the natural world lies at the intersection of art and science.
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Shri Jasnath Asan