Bee-eater. Narrowly escaped becoming a technicolor brunch for one of the local Peregrines.
Thoughts of finding a Bee-eater have not been far from my mind this spring. In fact, I’d mussed upon the possibility of bumping into one today. Not because it felt like a balmy Balearic day (it felt like mid March), more so to break the boredom of a relatively bird less morning on Beachy Head!. The weather was a mediocre, cool, overcast with a light northerly, which often does produce the goods on Beachy Head, although that may sound counterintuitive.
I’d completed a lap of Belle Tout, Birling Gap and by 11.15 hrs had moved on to Shooters Bottom when I heard what I thought was a Bee-eater. I wasn’t sure. I had been fooled by phrases of distant Skylark song blown on the wind before this spring. I stood and listened again, I couldn’t hear anything other than bird song and the distant chatter from some far off hikers. Then, as I’d begun to move on, there it was again, closer this time and definitely the liquid “Prrrrupp Prrrrrupp” call of a Bee-eater. My heart raced, knowing how often these birds are heard but not seen, I hurriedly scanned above me, along the horizon, basically everywhere!. At this point a noticed a Peregrine stooping after a smaller bird, climbing sharply and plummeting again in pursuit of something. I quickly scanned in front of it to see what the escapee was. To my amazement and delight I could clearly see a Bee-eater, wings folded, diving directly for the cover of Hodcombe, the private garden opposite Shooters. At this point I went a little crazy, possibly indulged in a little impromptu shadow boxing as this much anticipated moment became reality! I fumbled with my phone and got the news out via Matt Eade then took some photo’s. The bird hung around for about 1.45 hrs. Sitting in the top of a dead pine catching bumblebees, sometimes sallying some distance to pluck the insects from mid-air. Beautiful elegant birds, it was a pleasure to watch. At about 13.00 hrs a local Carrion Crow begun harassing it. Finally, patience worn out, it set off west, gaining height and heading towards Birling Gap. It’s call still audible as it disappeared from view. A dream find!
Below are some shots with the iPhone x scope.