Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Eating Bees

4th August.  Not surprisingly that is exactly what the Bee-eaters were doing at the Brampton Quarry today, eating bees.  Surprisingly, considering the damn awful weather of late there appeared to be a plentiful supply of bees.  Perhaps less surprisingly when you hear that a local Bee-keeper has delivered three hives to the site.

Having paid our £5 parking fee and paid another £1 for a Bee-eater badge, Lee and I took the ten minute walk to the viewing area.  I’m hoping that a good proportion of the £5 goes to the RSPB or conservation in some form or another!  Thankfully the rain had stopped although initially it remained cloudy and dull before after about an hour the sun shone.  I understand that male Bee-eater had been visiting the nest about every twenty minutes earlier in the morning and that there had been good sightings of the birds on the fence.  It seems on our arrival they had decided to take a break!

Having focussed my telescope on the nest site it wasn’t too long before the male bird flew in and made a delivery to the nest.  Considering it was dull conditions we got a decent sighting and heard the bird calling.  Then it all went quiet for at least forty-five minutes.  I understand that there is some concern that the second nest has been abandoned, although having spoken to different RSPB representatives there was clearly some uncertainty about this.  Never the less little activity has been seen around this nest over the past couple of days I’m told.

No images I'm afraid but I do have a badge to prove I was there.
We waited patiently for maybe forty-five minutes before a Bee-eater was seen again.  A bird appeared form the nest.  Someone suggested that because the male had not been back to the nest for so long the female had left the chicks and come out of the nest.  The bird instantly caught an insect which was clearly seen in the bill.  Having discussed this with a member of the RSPB staff it seems probable that this bird was one of the male helpers at the nest as it is known to stay in the nest for lengthy periods.  It seemed unlikely that the female would leave the chicks at such a stage, but not definitely ruled out that the bird had been the female.  Then we had two Bee-eaters in view for a short time.  The male appeared to have returned.  We watched some coming and going at the nest and the birds usually had bees in their bill.  Our wait had been worthwhile as the sun shone and one of the Bee-eaters flew around the area of the nest and perched several times on the fence giving a good sighting.

I was asked last night how Bee-eaters deal with the Bee’s sting.  I have to admit that I wasn’t too sure.  It appears that they kill the insect by knocking it against a hard surface and then press the abdomen to ensure that the venom is got rid of.  Yes I know, obvious when you think about it.

I suppose that is my twitch out of the way for 2015.  It didn’t really feel like a twitch.  The folk there in the main were interested visitors rather than twitchers and it was good to see a number of youngsters present.  European Bee-eater was a lifer for Lee and a UK first for me.  They really are beautiful birds and let’s hope that the future brings colonisation of the UK and in the shorter term that young successfully fledge at Brampton.  Not my best sighting of Bee-eaters by a long way, but I didn’t want to make too much of that on the day, and as I say a UK first for me which I think has to be important.  My sightings list of Bee-eaters = European, Carmine, White-fronted, Little and Swallow-tailed.

Back at the car-park/field we found that we could watch a Bee-eater with Bee in bill on the fence.  The telescope gave us good views again.  After we had our fill we made off for lunch and decided to stop at the Little Chef.  Well, service with a smile it was not.  In fact we noted that the waitress that served us did not smile the whole time we were present.  The bill at the end made the £5 parking charge at the quarry site look very good value for money indeed!

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