This incredibly rare image of two elusive kingfishers MATING has been caught on camera – by a photographer who waited patiently for the shot for four years.
Keen amateur wildlife snapper Calvin Laidlaw, 48, followed the pair through their courtship routine before getting the "million dollar shot".
A male kingfisher can spend weeks proving his worthiness as a partner by catching fish for the demanding female before eventually successfully mating with her.
Calvin, a musician, from Livingston, West Lothian, 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."
Eagle-eyed Calvin captured pictures of the beautiful birds at 7am on April 11 after watching the pair for the last two months.
He said: "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."
The beautiful blue-winged birds slice through the surface of the water to skilfully snare their supper before shooting back up into the air as quick as a flash.
They can reach speeds of up to 25 miles-per-hour and can dive-bomb two feet below the surface to target their prey.
They are so fast that often the only glimpse of them is a blue 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 extremely rare pair will co-parent, taking it in turn to look after any potential eggs.
He said: "It is very rare to see the pair as 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.
"If she is at the eggs he will be fishing then when she is out fishing he will incubate the eggs.
"They will eat around 40 fish each a day and when the chicks hatch that's a lot of fishing to be done."
"They are also very territorial.
"I saw three of them in the same area one day – two males and a female but the outsider male was made to leave by the dominant male."
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