Rare kingfisher snapped in Whin Park in Inverness
A rare sighting of a rare bird has become a bit of a habit for an off-duty Inverness shift worker.
Working at the airport can mean unusual hours for Andrew Cregan, but his daily walk in Whin Park and the Ness Islands has proved a real hit with nature lovers.
While out and about in the mornings, Mr Cregan has regularly seen a brightly coloured kingfisher sitting by the side of the River Ness, apparently intent on catching its breakfast.
But, as Mr Cregan explains, getting a picture of the rarely spotted bird has meant using tactics that may well be employed by the SAS.
He said: "I try to get out a walk on the islands most days and it is amazing the wildlife you begin to see.
"When I spotted the kingfisher yesterday morning, I only had my camera phone with me. So I went back to the house to get my camera. I didn't for a minute think that the bird would still be there when I got back.
"But there it was. All in all it must have been in that spot for a couple of hours.
"The trick is for the kingfisher to not see you. If it does it moves. So I went round behind it, and managed to sneak up on it. I eventually managed to get behind a tree that opened up and allowed me to take the shot without being seen.
"I am really pleased with the results. I posted the pictures on Facebook, and already this morning I can see another man out trying to get a similar photo. Some people have even spoken to me this morning about the pictures and asking where the kingfisher was."
Kirsty Nutt from RSPB Scotland said: “For many people seeing a kingfisher is a very special experience, particularly as they can be quite hard to spot. It’s lovely to hear that people are enjoying seeing them so close to Inverness city centre. When life is busy, it is important and good for us to take time to connect with nature.”
They rely on good water quality for food as they eat fish and aquatic insects.
They nest in burrows so need suitable nesting sites on river banks.
They are vulnerable to harsh winters, so might be seen more often if we are have more mild ones
They are less common in the north of Britain, particularly north Scotland
The local Bird Report from 2017 lists them as "scarce local breeder mainly in Strathspey and the Great Glen, rare elsewhere".
There’s no estimate of numbers breeding but there are a handful of sightings in the report from 2017 in Inverness -Ness Islands and Merkinch LNR/Muirtown basin can be good places to see them in the city.
They can be seen sitting quietly on low-hanging branches over water but it can be quite hard to spot them if they don’t move
You can also spot them as they fly past but you’ll usually just see a flash of blue.