‘Million-dollar shot’ of Kingfishers mating near Livingston after FOUR YEAR wait
PHOTOGRAPHER Calvin Laidlaw waited for four years to catch an incredibly rare picture of two kingfishers mating.
Keen amateur wildlife snapper Calvin, 48, followed the pair through their courtship routine before getting the “million-dollar shot” near Livingston.
A male kingfisher can spend weeks proving his worth as a partner by catching fish for the demanding female before eventually successfully mating with her.
Calvin, a musician from Livingston, said: “I was in a pop-up hide next to the river which I have been pursuing for years and years, so I have done my homework.
“Then I got the million-dollar shot, which I have only ever seen happen once, four years ago.
“You only have a second to react, so when that opportunity arrived I was really shocked and then it was all over super quick.
“I’ve been watching this pair for the last two months but have only seen them paired up in the last three weeks and been out most mornings from 5am to get set up for the photograph.”
Kingfishers can reach speeds of up to 25 miles-per-hour and can dive-bomb two feet below the surface to target their unsuspecting prey.
They are so fast that often the only glimpse of them is a blue and orange flash as they strike. The sex of each kingfisher is easily identified as the female wears the lipstick – an orange edging to her otherwise black bill – while the males have a full black bill.
Calvin said: “At the start of the year, there will be a couple and there is an element of courtship and building of a relationship before the mating.
“In the weeks before, the males will pass fish to the females as part of the mating ritual.
“Like when swans lock necks, this is their form of relationship and it helps them get ready for mating.
“I have been waiting to get this picture for years and it really is down to a bit of luck.
“I can be out for eight hours a day and see nothing, but that’s the beauty of this, you just don’t know when it’s going to happen.
“I was absolutely shocked and surprised that I managed to capture it because it was so brief and I wasn’t expecting it.
“I have seen other pictures in the past of the birds mating, but it sometimes can only happen two or three times a year.
“The mating season is from April to September, but the mating is dependant on the temperature and the climate.
“If they don’t feel it is safe to mate then they won’t, like if it was too cold.
“But I think the warmer weather we have been having recently has stirred this couple on.”
Calvin said the pair will co-parent, taking it in turn to look after any potential eggs. He said: “It is very rare to see the pair at this time of year and when they are mating.
“They have spent the last few weeks choosing a nest site and nest building then they court each other, mate, then the female will lay an egg a day for anything between five and seven days, then they take turns to incubate the eggs.”