How can you resist these harlequin beauties? with their turquoise breast, radiant yellow chin and orange wings, and as they dart over head their bubbly, chirpy chorus is enough to make anyone's heart sing.
When a breeding pair of European Bee Eaters nested on the Isle of Wight in 2014, naturalists and birders from around the UK flocked to the island to catch a glimpse of these exotic looking birds. At the time, they were considered to be a lost and slightly confused pair, but with a changing climate and two more breeding pairs in Cumbria this year, I really hope that these birds become a regular visitor to British shores.
You can image my excitement when driving around the hills just outside Bologna when I stumbled upon a whole colony. Easily over 30 pairs. Needless to say the next few days were spent observing, photographing and filming them. I even managed to get a few shots of the parents feeding the young and capture the fledging of a young.
As you can see, they do feed on butterflies, moths and anything with wings, although when they do dart off into the sky to hunt down a bee, they do so with incredible sharp procession and accuracy. Once they have caught one mid-flight they return to a perch to devour the bee. With ruthless efficiency it bashes the head on a branch causing the release of the toxins from the body. Soon after it will enjoy the bee with the same relish I enjoy a ripe strawberry.
As with most of our avian friends their numbers are falling, both from insect depletion due to pesticides and short sighted land management practices but also from persecution; To honey farmers, these birds are not welcome.
Yet in spite of this, many of these birds will cross from Europe to Africa twice a year and in each place they land, bring with them the beauty of both their looks and their sound.
Nick, Oropendola Productions