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Bee eaters nesting habits

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Simon

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« on: March 28, 2007, 05:53 AM »


A few years ago I found a colony of bee-eaters close to my house in the Pyrenees. I presume this was during rearing time as the birds spent long hours to-ing a d fro-ing from their burrows to specific perches just opposite, but wasn’t there at the right time last year nor do I expect to be there this year. As I would like to direct my guests to the site with a least some confidence, does anyone know if bee-eaters return to nest in the same place each year, like swallows?

Thanks

Simon

Offline nick

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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2007, 09:57 AM »
Interesting questing. This site suggests nests are sometimes reused.

"Soon after their arrival in spring at male's natal site the pair excavates the nest burrow generally in earthen cliff. The burrow will be 75/100 cm long and the digging will lasts between 10 to 20 days. Frequently, previous year holes are re-used after some kind of rehabilitation. "

http://www.jerome-guillaumot.com/gallery/2172707

But the remarkable http://www.vertebradosibericos.org/portada.html notes:
"En colonias del sur de España es raro que reutilicen nidos de años anteriores. "

(http://www.vertebradosibericos.org/aves/reproduccion/merapire.html)
http://www.vertebradosibericos.org/aves/merapi.html - and scroll down/follow links

ENCICLOPEDIA VIRTUAL DE LOS VERTEBRADOS ESPAÑOLES is one of my top three sources. Brilliant
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Offline nick

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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2007, 10:03 AM »
I've just realised you're not asking about reuse of holes, but whether they return to the same site.

mmm
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Simon

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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2007, 11:48 AM »
Thanks Nick,

I suppose I was askig for both! In any event the flock of bee eaters 'communtes' over the village daily - you always hear them log before you see them of course!

Simon

Offline nick

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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2007, 11:59 AM »
Their song always reminds of nineteen-fifities SF stun-gun or spaceship sound effect
Nick
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2007, 17:38 PM »
Hi Simon,

unfortunately our local rock is limestone and not condusive to tunnel style nest building! Shame 'cause I love these birds.

Last year I saw a bee-eater attempting to nest in a builders sand pile while he was away for siesta! Wish i'd taken a photo.

There are two large colony nest sites that I know of. One is on private land and the owners have put a pool at the base of the bank so the birds will have to get used to company or move.

The other consisted of more than 50 pairs near Arcos de la Frontera in an old sand quarry. At our last visit, April 06, they had re-opened the quarry and the birds were frantically swooping around the machines trying to get to non existing nesting tunnels. So very sad to witness.

So they do return to old sites, but I know of a hundred plus birds looking for a new site this year.
(The sound makes me think of an old pea-whistle)

Regards, Sue
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Simon

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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2007, 19:05 PM »
Hi Sue, et al,

Thanks for your observations about the Bee eaters. I think I would have cried lots has I seen the quarry massacre – but I do that lots these days! So I think I’ll give my colony an ‘A’ for survival and look out for it this spring.

Our landscape is very distinctive and, by the sound of it, very conducive for burrowing animals: the Conca de Tremp was once an inland sea, ‘captured’ between mountain ranges when the Iberian plate collided with Europe. Where we live then canted up and exposed the strata of several epochs. It’s rather famous for this in geological circles.

At ground level, however, we have layers of soft. ‘neonate’ limestone interspersed with layers of clays and sands and shale, so there are innumerable habitats available for burrowing!

Over to the song: I think they sound like picolos or ocarines, but always the wood variety!

Another Bee eater habit, at least around here, is to fly ahead of your car, a bit like dolphins do on the bow wave of ships. Given our precipitous terrain that the roads follow this is really dangerous for the drivers!

Bye for now

Simon



Offline Sue

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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2007, 22:14 PM »
Hi Simon,

Clive heard some Bee-eaters fly overhead today, the first so far. It has turned pretty cold and wet, so spring seems to have slowed down as they are a bit later this year. Let us know when they reach you!

Regards, Sue
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Simon

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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2007, 07:41 AM »
Hi Sue,

Thanks for that, I'll look forward to hearing them as soon as this wretched anticyclone passes - May at this rate! Do you know to what extent migrations are affected by winds? Lots I should think.

Still no cuckoo either. We get an odd phenomenon up here, about now the woods are packed to bursting with songbirds, most notably hoopoes, and then they suddenly disappear. Then, a week or so later, we have another arrival but of much fewer numbers, these become our 'rseidents' for the summer. I surmise that the first batch are headed for foreign parts and are stocking up on fodder before crossing the Pyrenees. My big question is whether the second group migrate further south in winter, so as to explain the later arrival. Any thoughj?

Ciaio!

Simon

Offline SueMac

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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2007, 10:08 AM »
Hi  there
 hoopooes, beeaters and the odd swallow have arrived with an eagle lazily coasting and watching over the nesting holes down here.  Six foot wing span - not good on identifying these yetbut will get better.
SueMac
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2007, 21:04 PM »
Hi Simon and all

We think along the same lines as yourself in that the birds breeding in the north of Europe seem to winter in the warmer south of Iberia and those which breed in warmer Iberia, travel to Africa to winter, hence the two batches.

The numbers of say chaffinch rise here in the south over winter, with an influx from colder areas. Strangely though last winter we had a group of siskins visit every day and I’ve not seen one this winter!

How does wind effect migration?
Strong winds from the East (Levante) and from the West (Poniente) do influence migration. Birds fly at higher altitudes when the conditions are favorable. Non soaring birds approach the straits of Gibraltar from different directions depending on the wind. Flocks of birds will fly towards Africa from the Atlantic coast with an East -Levante wind or from the Mediterranean coast if it is a West--Poniente wind. They are flying then into the wind with an expected drift towards the other side. Info from “Field guide to the birds of the Strait of Gibraltar”.

An ill judged leaving point may leave the birds too long over the sea. Griffon vultures have been rescued from the Iberian water when a difficult spring crossing saw them ditch into the sea with no thermals to keep the height.

Regards, Sue
« Last Edit: April 08, 2007, 21:09 PM by Wildside »
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Simon

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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2007, 12:30 PM »
Thanks Sue and Suemac,

Well. I guess my hunch about different groups of migrants is right. You are really lucky, Sue, in having songbirds over-winter in your area. In our neck of the woods, the Pre-Pyrenees, an eerie silence prevails, made more mournful by the cackle from a colony of rooks that inhabits an abandoned caste on the escarpment above the village. On a frosty January morning with the mists rising from the valley the whole effect is positively gothic!

I’m curious to hear that griffon vultures migrate across the Straits. I’ve been observing our local group for ten years and know some individuals that I see almost daily; there is a pair that split off from the main group presumably to a separate roost. If they have to power fly low over the village, which is on a coll that separates two valley systems, you can sometimes hear their breathing in time with the wing beats, a curiously intimate experience.  Come to think of it, I wrote about them in the Guardian Weekly back in about 1999, perhaps we can convince Nick, who has a copy, to put it up on the site somewhere.

We do have migrant black kites, which augment our ‘resident’ population of about a dozen pairs of red kites, plus a lonely Egyptian vulture that I’ve seen regularly since about 1995. Like you I’ve noticed that there are some years when the whole migration seems to have failed. A few years ago there were no swallows, not only in the village but also 100 miles away in the city of Tarragona, where we also live, so it seemed that an entire population had been devastated. The really strange thing was that they turned up in the usual numbers the following year, which would suggest to me that the population en masse had been somewhere else – over to the experts on that one!

It must be fabulous to observe the Straits during migration time. The nearest I’ve ever got to it was changing planes at Tangiers when it appeared to be snowing storks! There must have been thousands of them grounded on the airfield in the howling wind, every now and again a few would take off, hurtle into the air and come crashing down again, just like someone trying unsuccessfully to launch a kite. Then they would furl their wings with difficulty and appeared to try to cling to the ground. It was the most terrifying take-off I can remember and that’s saying a lot – we even saw the ground crew load a coffin into the hold, which added to the sense of foreboding!

Ciaio!  Simon

 

Offline lucy

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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2007, 14:28 PM »
You’re very lucky Simon to see vultures on a daily basis, and so close.  Nick, I’d love to read Simon’s article about them.  Sometimes I’ve been underneath a vulture soaring past and heard the wind whistling through its feathers – a fabulous sound. To hear them breathing must be amazing! I once visited a bird of prey recuperation centre near Sant Feliu de Codines, where there was a flight exhibition.  A variety of birds would fly from one side to the other, very low over your head (sometimes brushing you with their wings) to receive food from the wardens. When it came to the griffon vulture’s turn, people screamed and ducked, convinced it would crash land among them.  You could appreciate the tremendous effort involved for such an enormous bird to fly, and why they might have problems crossing the sea or why they might need to take such deep breaths while flying over your village.  The centre was located at the edge of a precipice and the vulture landed on the wooden railing overlooking the drop.  Since it was a very calm and rather cool day, it showed absolutely no interest in getting any more exercise.  The warden gave it an encouraging little push but it immediately came back and looked at the warden, hopeful for some more grub.

Going to the Straits at migration time is something I’d really love to do.  I’ve read so many accounts of how dramatic it can be, seeing the skies fill up with birds.  Have you witnessed this, Sue? When would be the best time to go – August?  Is there a particularly  good place to be?  If I got some practical information maybe I could actually plan to do something. 


Offline Clive

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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2007, 17:03 PM »
Hola Lucy and all,

Stephen Daly is based at Barbate and runs "Andalucian guides". He is incredibly knowledgeable about migration patterns and also knows the best places to see as much as possible during a stay in his area.

He has a listing with Wildside Holidays at http://www.wildsideholidays.com/listing-Andalucian+Guides-48.html

Follow the link to his web site for lots more information.

Clive
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2007, 14:02 PM »
Dear All

Our bee eaters have returned to the same site  - saw at least six in an almond tree near the old sandy holes in the gully.  They are behaving like swallows and skimming over us.  I think they are pleased to see the sun as much as we are.  They seem to be going around the old holes - will report in due course. Taking chair and  camera out later.!!
SueMac
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2007, 14:31 PM »
A most interesting occurrence since last communication.  Our camino which is usually used by about four cars a day is in the process of being turned into a motorway - yes I know only a slight exaggeration. The earth mover cut back through the sandstone during this last week and certainly destroyed old holes.  Driving back from town this morning bee eaters were pouring out of at least seven new neat holes beside the camino. So I know where they are nesting ha!
SueMac
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2007, 14:47 PM »
Hola,

Hate to ask SueMac but has the earth mover finished his work? If not you are going to have to camp out in order to protect the new nest sites.

Last year Sue and I were so upset and angry to see a massive colony of bee eaters (hundreds) completely destroyed during the nesting season because a quarry near to us re opened an old working that had been left for many years. The drivers of the machines were un phased by all of the adults flying around in distress doing there best to scare off the big yellow monster that was destroying their nests, eggs and chicks.....

Clive
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2007, 10:56 AM »
That is a terrible story Clive. Here I think timing in the end has saved the situation here.  I intend to have a word with the tractor driver but I think they were doing their courting  They do let me get pretty near in the car before doing a circuit of the sky.  I attach a late evening shot from last night and new hole evidence right on the road.
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2007, 11:06 AM »
Did it again forgot to attach....
SueMac

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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2007, 11:09 AM »
No 2
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