... in kingfishers

Published on 26 Oct 2020
Street art of a kingfisher spotted in south London

I live near a network of waterways, and a river which has salmon in it, which means that on my walks I often see a kingfisher. The first time I saw one, I thought it was a rare occurrence (they are actually quite common birds, but look exotic in comparison to most British birds, which tend to be shades of grey and brown), but subsequently, I realised that, if I went to the right places, I was almost guaranteed to spot one. Sometimes, I hear them before I see them as they whizz down the river making a 'kee-kee' sound, on other occasions I look for them deliberately. They are actually quite small birds and can be surprisingly difficult to spot when still, despite their bright colours.

Recently I was standing on a bridge over a place where a tributary feeds into the canal, near a cornershop, and not in the least bit expecting to see one, but I saw a kingfisher really close up, probably two metres away at most. I was surprised because that section of water is littered with traffic cones, bits of rubbish and shopping trolleys, whereas he could have been in a much cleaner, more pastoral part of the river with some nice bulrushes. But no! 

But as my brother pointed out to me, what might be litter to me was a convenient perch to him. I then noticed that this section of waterway was absolutely teeming with small fish swimming in clear, shallow water. Perfect for the kingfisher. 

I am a fan of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, and one of his famous verses begins 'As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame'. I have begun to see these bright blue, fast moving birds, shot through with flaming orange, as symbols of the divine, darting through my daily existence. We can easily forget God's good graces in the daily grind, but here they are, flashing past. Keep your eyes peeled.  

Where have you found God today?