By Mikey Jones
These unbelievably rare scenes show a kingfisher appearing to teach a robin to fish.
Swedish wildlife photographer Nicolas Reusens Boden, 43, shot the incredible photographs from a hide near a river outside Barcelona.
After a day of waiting for a kingfisher to appear, he was stunned to witness the bird not only successfully fishing but also apparently showing a robin – a species not usually associated with catching fish – following suit.
Bird experts said the images were highly unusual and said it was not unheard of for robins, known to be an intelligent bird, to learn through observation.
Nicolas said: “The highlight of my day was not only finally getting my kingfisher shots, but witnessing and capturing a robin learning to fish from the expert.
“The whole morning, I watched the robin waiting for the kingfisher to dive.
“I thought it was waiting for the kingfisher to drop a fish, but then I saw something strange.
“The robin was paying close attention and even seemed to try to imitate the kingfisher’s movements by getting closer to the water, and trying to attack the smallest fishes from the borders of the pond.
“I was in shock. They both looked relaxed on the same branch.
“Then, the kingfisher dived while the robin stood close looking.
“After it left, the robin stayed and started flying around the pond.
“Finally, it dived and captured a huge fish for its size.
“I didn’t even know I got the picture until I arrived home and saw the files – it was an astonishing capture.
“I have never seen a robin with a fish before.
“Someone told me this had only ever been seen during winter time, with a dead or injured fish in the snow, but never outright fishing.
“I think these are the first crisp pictures of this phenomenon ever taken so far.”
Nicolas asked a friend to devise a water filtering system to create a small natural pond so he could photograph the bird in the wild but through crystal clear water, rather than in an artificial aquarium.
Fish were then added to the pond to encourage the kingfisher, but he insisted the images were not set up in any way beyond this.
Nicholas had been shooting at the location for months and said he had seen the robin close to the pond before but never witnessed behaviour of this nature.
The photographer, who took the images earlier this year but has just released them for the first time, added: “Kingfishers never cease to amaze me – they are brave and fast as lightning.
“Robins are cute and fun to watch – but now I think they are also pretty intelligent, adapting to survive by learning from the pros.
“Now I know why they are Britain’s national bird.”
When shown the images, RSPB wildlife experts said the robin’s actions were the sort of learned behaviour a clever bird could develop through observation.
Dr Gavin Siriwardena, Head of Terrestrial Ecology at the British Trust for Ornithology, agreed it was possible the robin developed its hunting strategy by watching the bigger bird’s actions.
He said: “This is certainly unusual.
“The pictures suggest the robin is learning by watching the kingfisher, which could be possible as it is clearly a clever robin.
“Robins are known to feed near water and they are also very adaptable and opportunistic.
“For example, they are well known for following gardeners to find worms as the soil is disturbed.
“So it may also be the robin was adapting to the new situation and going after fish in a shallow pool instead of the insects which are its usual prey.”