Saturday, July 01, 2017

Malcolm Saville wrote about bee-eaters visiting Britain

From Malcolm Saville's The Fourth Key (1957):
When Mr. Walters put the glasses down he was wildly excited. 
"I have amazing news for you - and indeed for every bird-lover in the country," he whispered. "As I suspected, the birds you saw and which I have been watching for fifteen minutes are bee-eaters. I believe there are at least three couples and they are nesting at the end of the tunnels made by sand-martins in the sandy cliff below us. Bee-eaters rarely come to Britain because our summers are often cold and wet. They breed on the sunny coats of the Mediterranean."
Yes, the great man anticipated yesterday's news story about bee-eaters being seen in a Nottinghamshire quarry.

But it turns our that, like many of his stories, this one had a basis in fact.

For Saville describes in his foreword how three friends came across bee-eaters "a mile or two from the South Downs" in Sussex at the end of July 1955:
It was hard to keep the birds from being worried by enthusiastic bird-watchers during the next few weeks, and the although the secret was fairly well kept volunteers helped to keep curious crowds away from the nesting-sites until the baby birds had flown.
Saville wrote in 1957:
although bee-eaters have sometimes been seen in Britain, they had never before actually nested or been able to rear families so far north of their usual haunts in Spain, Italy, or the Mediterranean coasts.
But the BBC report on the Nottinghamshire birds says bee-eaters nested in Cumbria in 2015 and on the Isle of Wight in 2014.

So those who suggest that climate change is making them more frequent visitors to Britain may be right.

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