Blue kingfishers

Low branches hang from prehistoric trees, almost skimming the camo green waters of the Singapore River. Boats pass each other sluggishly, with only the occasional tourist standing on deck to take photographs in the midday sun. The rest look contently through the smeared glass, with a guide describing how the banks looked a century ago, with ox carts, traders and not so many sky scrapers.

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Great green fronds sprout from the base of each branch, and the thick trunk is decorated in lace-like delicate lime moss. Small flitting leaves catch the light like glitter, and fall amongst red slithers of dry foliage to create a carpet of cereal on the ground. Workers doze in the shade, using jackets as makeshift pillows for their slumbering heads.

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Watching the river, almost hidden in the leaves of the outstretched branch, sit two blue kingfishers a metre apart. Alert eyes, assessing the fish below. One swiftly departs as the other turns his head, proudly presenting his black conical beak against the white marble columns of the grandly colonial Fullerton Hotel. Unlike humans, birds only look good in profile. His protruding belly is white in contrast to the azure feathers, which rivals the bright blue of the Swedish flag that flaps lazily behind him. Without warning, he swoops down to the water surface, fully submerging himself in a splash, and emerges with a wriggling silvery blue fish the size of his own body. Effortlessly he flies away with his prize, and it seems impossible that he can carry that much in his mouth and be airborne simultaneously.

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I’m left to finish my lunch in the company of the menial birds that frequent the park. Crows with pointy long beaks play chicken over my head, diving in arcs so close that I must duck to avoid their wings and claws. I notice one is staring down at me from the joint of a branch, it’s feet planted and mouth gaping open. Another noisily scratches his feet on the metal lamppost behind me, and calls like a robotic toy running out of battery. They continue to flap at me and displace one another from their positions until the hope of feasting on the remains of my picnic becomes slim, and they move three benches along to torment the next potential feeder. A puffed up pigeon, with shabby ruffled feathers, chases an elegant pigeon in circles. She has a blush of green and purple infused on her throat as she playfully hops away from her suitor, eventually flying off to continue the pursuit privately elsewhere.

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Sources

Unfortunately my photographs of the kingfishers were abominable. So, image courtesy of Deseonocturno http://deseonocturno.deviantart.com/art/White-collared-Kingfisher-353446201

‘White collared kingfisher’ by Eunice Low, Singapore Infopedia, http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_1509_2009-04-21.html

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