I have this photograph framed and up in my office at home. I was given it as a thank you for doing nest surveillance back in 2002.
On the back it has a sticker which reads:
Bee-eater at nest hole - the first UK breeding attempt since 1955. Bishop Middleham, Durham Wildlife Trust Reserve. 7/8/2002. © RSPB. Photo by Andrew Hay.
Back in 2002 my Dad was Wildlife Crime Officer for Durham and the arrival of a pair of Bee-eaters at the Bishop Middleham DWT reserve was cause for much celebration.
This excitement was tempered when a known egg collector from the Teesside area was seen onsite. As a result, and as this Birdguides article puts it, ‘a military-style operation with 24-hour surveillance’ was put into place.
I was one of the many volunteers who watched over the birds. I did a couple of shifts from a small camo hut over looking the nest hole. In the hut were two radios; one to other onsite volunteers and another direct to the police. I never had cause to use either aside from checking in.
But I did diligently note down each time a bird entered or left the nest hole. I can remember the first time I saw one of the birds it was just like the picture perched at the entrance to the next hole. It was an electrifying sight and now a treasured memory.
These birds remained the last successful breeding Bee-eaters in the UK until the Isle of White birds this year, which fledged an incredible eight chicks from two nests!
Will Bee-eaters be one of the winners of climate change? Whilst Red-back Shrike and Golden Oriole contract their range maybe Bee-eaters will expand theirs?
I’d certainly be happy to do surveillance for them again. Especially locally in Suffolk! Here’s hoping for 2015…