29 March 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Flight of the bee-eater

Away from civilisation, on the trail of bee-eaters … ludicrously gorgeous birds in a festive mood.

The best thing, the best antidote to tiresome civilisation, is to be deep in the bush and to completely switch off; to fasten attention on the intriguing doings of a beautiful creature. Particularly cheering are the exultant chirrups from a little group of bee-eaters as they successfully pursue passing insects – only some of which are actual bees.

For some reason, I particularly remember a time in northern Kruger, at a tented camp. I had an uninterrupted view of the river and white-throated bee-eaters were in a festive mood. Colourful as Japanese kites, they were swooping off a conveniently level branch (of a tree that had fallen down in a flood) to snatch insects from the air, then return to whack them senseless against the wood before tossing them down their throats whole. I have felt that same satisfaction swallowing a fresh oyster. 

With every insect eaten, their spirits seemed to lift along with mine.

With every insect eaten, their spirits seemed to lift along with mine.

Another time we came across the nesting site of carmine bee-eaters, which are ludicrously gorgeous birds with their fuchsia and royal blue colouring and robbers’ masks. They typically nest in river banks, building metre-long tunnels in which they lay their eggs. They move in and out of their nests so quickly you can only put your camera on motor-drive and comb through the stunning images later.

Then all you can do is marvel at the careless grace of nature that throws such cheerful beauty across your path.

Category: Wildlife


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