We stopped to ask a dog-walker about bee-eaters. With weary patience he told us all we needed to know, and so we drove round three sides of the quarry and parked after paying a fiver to the RSPB. Strolled down to the quarry edge and waited, chatting occasionally to others, also waiting.
Not for long: suddenly there were four of them perched on the wires: long slim shapes, sharp beaks, single long tail-streamers streaming from the exact centres of the tails. Bee-eaters. Four of them. There are eight them of in all, at least two of them with active nests.
And that was all nice enough, for all that the light wasn’t right for the full blast of the impossible, almost ludicrous wealth of colours: yellow, pale-greeny-blue, chestnut, bright blue, pale orange, all set off with some delicately calligraphed black. Then the four of them were in the air, fizzing, circling, arcing, curvetting and returning to base with that sharp-winged bee-eater flight, calling that unmistakable bee-eater call. Prrrp!
They arrived quite unexpectedly this spring, took a shine to the place and moved in. Good choice: now the RSPB is on hand and keeping a 24-hour watch because (not their exact words) there are some arseholes about. And they (bee-eaters, not arseholes) are available to visit, in person and on line:
So there are rare birds ready and waiting, for a limited time only: as obliging as they are beautiful. Last time I saw bee-eaters in this country I was on the top deck of a horse; better views this time. We thanked the RSPB volunteers, thanked the birds and drove home in great good heart.