‘Halcyon’ denotes a time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. It comes from the name of a mythical bird, usually identified with the kingfisher, supposed to breed at winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea and with the power to calm the winds and tides. All very fanciful but the name has since been used as a genus name for some of the tree kingfishers, albeit not the species in this picture (Alcedo atthis). However, it is a blast from the past for me, so the title is appropriate!
Common (or sometimes called Eurasian) Kingfisher is an old world species of Europe and Asia, and is the only kingfisher commonly found in the UK, any others are extremely rare vagrants. They are small birds, about 6 inches long, and usually solitary, but they do pair up in the breeding season, hence the image shows a breeding pair. The female is the right hand bird, identifiable by the red/orange lower mandible of the bill. Despite the gorgeous plumage, these birds are often very difficult to see as they remain stationary looking for fish, so a sighting is always extra special. They are depicted sitting in a marsh of Greater Reedmace (Bulrushes).
Common Kingfishers were present on the park in the UK where Mark was a Warden (and where we first met), before we moved to Canada, and so evoke happy memories for us. I wanted to paint a picture as a gift for my parents, so this subject seemed like a good idea. I shall be sending this one off soon!
‘Amongst the Bulrushes’, Common Kingfishers, 8 x 10 inch watercolour pencil on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.