BEE-EATERS / PROFITEERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE


Visiting the northernmost breeding area of these multicolored summer guests

Photo created by Hwbund at Kaiserstuhl area, Germany, CC BY-SA 4.0
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Nowadays, the fabulous bee-eaters made their way even  to the very northeast of Germany close by the city of Prenzlau where they live in an operating surface mine which produces sand and gravel. In summer 2020 six breeding pairs stay actually here for a very short time, they usually arrive around 10 June and as real migrating birds leave again by 31 July when they will have already raised their brood.

Summer residence of the bee-eaters – a gravel pit near the village of Gerswalde (district Buchholz), Uckermark

Last Saturday I joined an ornithological excursion to this site led by ornithologist Derk Ehlert who is also the responsible Wildlife Officer of Berlin. Due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic the group had to be reduced to 8 people for ensuring necessary security rules. Fortunately, weather was fine so the bee-eaters were very active outside of their nesting caves. Once a bee-eater even flew over our heads, but the birds live inside the pit, a restricted area, so we could watch them usually only from a distance of 200-250 m.

Spotting scopes and binoculars required for observation of birds

Bee-eaters (merops apiaster) belong to the bird genus merops, a name emerging also in Greek mythology. There, Merops used to be the mythical king of the Meroper on the Greek island of Kos who had been transformed to an eagle by the goddess Hera. And the bee-eaters also like the Mediterranean area and prefer warm climates.

Flowery view on the technical facilities of the gravel pit
 
Video produced by Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Germany
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The bee-eater was considered extinct in Germany at the end of the 1980s, but has been migrating again since 1990 due to the ongoing climate change. His habitat is open landscapes with individual trees and bushes, and the birds breed in dug caves on steep slopes.
All what the birds require can be found in this gravel pit very well, and even when temperatures are not too high, the white sand is heated here by the strong July sun, so it should be always quite cozy for these birds.
Bee-eaters are often found in colonies. They like to sit, usually together with their peers, on outstanding branches, wires and masts. Through the spotting scope I myself could see 5 birds sitting on a distant bush, may be they just had a small siesta talk.

In a hill next to the gravel pit some holes and abandoned nest caves which might also be the work of black-tailed swallows (riparia riparia)

I found the place very fascinating, the mixture of technology, archaic steppe and wildlife an interesting symbiosis. The bee-eaters have seized a new living space here in the North where they apparently feel quite comfortable in summer.

Bird mural by Don Johnson for Urban Nation, Berlin

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Suburban Tracker

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