It is officially Autumn

The other day I woke up to a sound that had obviously seeped into my unconscious mind and nudged it into consciousness. I opened my eyes and listened. A gurgling sound reached my ears and, recognising it, I sprang out of bed and stared out of our tiny bedroom window. It was very early and I couldn’t see them, but due to the absence of other city noises, I could hear them flying somewhere above the house. Autumn had come and the bee-eaters were migrating.

I first saw the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) while researching the territorial behaviour of otters (Lutra lutra) in Evora, Portugal. This is my favourite photo of that first event:

Three bee-eaters on a fence close to Evora, Portugal

Bee-eaters are migrant birds that winter in Africa and come up to Europe (further and further north every year) during the winter. As their name suggests they are avid insect munchers and you can often see them slapping a bee – or any other insect – with their beak against a branch before swallowing it. Their biology seems to tend towards the soap opera kind of life: they’re seasonally monogamous but have cooperative breeding (with brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts all helping out with the raising of new offspring); along with family feuds and daily adventures, their lives could very well be a potential for an ornithological Downton Abbey! And also they are just beautiful to see!


Interestingly, they build their nests in earth cliffs (most often the banks of rivers and streams) and burrow deep into the soil to find a safe spot for their young. To do this they dig for about twenty days and move up to eighty times their weight in soil. Impressive! In some parts of the world they are hunted for their meat (not surprising…nearly every living thing is eaten, somewhere!) although it seems to me like they’d be a hard mouthful to catch: bright rainbow-ed arrows dashing through the sky.


My favourite photo of a bee-eater, taken while driving by a dry river bank in the car. You can see some burrows behind the bird, in the bank. Gorgeous!

Last year I worked for a project in Cordoba (in the far south of Spain) whose goal was to study social behaviour in birds and, although we didn’t actually work with these colourful migrants, chances of seeing them were not sleek. Except for the first one of this post, all the other photos were taken then.


Bee-eaters resting… and me, trying to get a closer shot, sneaking up from behind..


My second favourite photo, taken with quite a zoom and whilst in an hide


Also taken whist in an observation hide, this group of bee-eaters swooped right in front of me (and my camera!) for more than an hour before changing area. There must have been a LOT to eat!

Difficult to see but fascinating to watch, this is probably the most colourful bird we have in Europe (not considering the illegal immigrants!), so next time you heard a gurgling sound above you look up and sharpen your eyes…you might just see a flash of colour in close pursuit of an insect, flying for its life!


About Full Of Daisies

I am permanently in love. Things I like: purple, pasta, silk, autumn, the smell of mould, candles, cachi, having friends, water, new things, rice, eggs (all eggs!), fresh grass, olive trees, shiny things, glitter, hanging objects, windcatchers, wind, couscous, wasabi, carnivores, presents, snow, leaves, orchids, feathers, cappelletti, meat, fruit (all fruit), more del gelso (Morus alba L.), pigs, candles, christmas, polenta fritta!, separating egg whites from yokes in my hands, cartoons, dragons, the ocean, nudibranchi, cows, mercury (the metal), cosmos (the flowers), thunderstorms, Mika, turtles, acquariums, green and blue (mixed), siccamores, spring, snails, 24, porc with a sweet sauce (apple, cranberry, tomatoes jam), looking at a swimming pool upsidedown and underwater, english accent, open-minded people, driving, blue skies, checkered tablecloths, butterflies, books and cartoons in rhyme, painting eggs, the star-shadows that football players have, silver, laughing, Vivaldi, bells and chimes, white and purple, creating. Complete Happiness: Early morning. Sun, with a breeze; a pond with water lilies. A house, with a garden, full of plants. A vegetable patch, lemon, orange and mandarin trees. Cosmos everywhere. Birds in the trees; a tortoise eating the salad from the vegetable patch; a mammal (I couldn’t decide which one would make me happier) close by. No houses for as far as the eye can see. Me, a man that loves me and that I love. Friends coming over for a lunch that I have to prepare, and have all the ingredients for all ready in the kitchen.


  1. A me piace tantissimo l’ultima foto, con quel ramo ritorto che fa da perfetta decorazione.


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Lontra Italia

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