Saturday 30 January 2021

Birding Blast from the Past 6 - Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, East Yorkshire, Sunday 09 July 1989

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. A what?

Birding Broomhill Fash and Worsbrough Country Park on Sunday 09 July 1989 produced some nice sightings including a returning Greenshank, summering Common Terns, a selection of Warblers and Ruddy Ducks, remember those? 

All of the above were overshadowed by the news of a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater present on the Yorkshire coast. Sage words from local birders to my dad was to go and see this once in a lifetime sighting in GB!
The trip in the afternoon seemed to take an age, it was the afternoon of the Wimbledon's Men's singles final Becker against Edberg, but we found the site fairly easily to the south of Hornsea near Mappleton soon joining a bucketful of birders scoping a hedgerow. There it was perched in the hedge and with mum and dad watched it for an hour from 17:20. It spent most of its time sat in the hedge but occasional hunted Bees from a telegraph wire. Stunning plumage and a massive rarity, the 'record' photo below does it no justice.

Many, many years later and my next encounter of this species was at Phassouri Reedbeds, Cyprus in April 2016, where a group of 3 spent some time on passage hunting from the reedbed fringed channel. What struck me about them was the behaviour, almost reluctant to fly, spending most of their time sitting on the reed tops. Could be easily missed, I remember a conservation working party putting me on to them when I was in the area. Were they not active and resting having crossed the Mediterranean Sea, or is this a trait of this species compared to European Bee-eater, that seems to be here, there and everywhere?

The best views I've had to date were back on Cyprus in March 2018 when birding the archaeological complex at Paphos Headland late one afternoon. A glance to the southern end and a Bee-eater sp. was in flight, fresh in as not seen when in that part of the site about half an hour earlier. I rushed down the path and had a fantastic look at the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater shown below. This one spent most of its time hunting from a tree for which it then then settled upon. I gave it some space leaving it resting on the tree, and continued walking the rest of the site.