Watch Bee-eaters and Hoopoes @ your Garden

Growing up and watching birds as a youngster in the UK, I was always fascinated by vagrants. Vagrants by their bird watching definition are birds which are blown, or just get confused and fly in the wrong direction from their normal migration routes, sometimes by a few hundred miles, sometimes as far as the width of an entire ocean or continent. And we are not only talking ocean going Albatrosses here, we are talking about birds that can be as small as a sparrow or a finch. 

I was lucky to live on the west coast of the UK so had the pleasure of seeing numerous incredibly rare American species as well as the passage of incredible Arctic and Scandinavian seabird and wader species which flew south for the winter past the western coast of the British Isles.

But even though I had these amazing birds to watch I was still jealous of those who lived on the east coast, especially the south east coast of England because they had a totally different set of vagrants which never came very far west.

And two of the birds I wanted to see the most were European Bee-eaters and Hoopoes, which back then were still very rare vagrants to the south east coast. They now breed in a number of places and a few are resident all year round but when I was a child they were still very rare vagrants.

Who would have thought that 30 odd years later, one species would be nesting in my garden, and the other nesting in the roof of one of my neighbours. Both species visit my garden daily looking for insects, worms and anything else scrumptious. It's amazing when I think back to turning the pages of bird books as a child wishing I could see these birds that they are now a daily sight.

But I'm not being 100% honest here, I don't actually have European Bee-eaters nesting in my garden I have Green Bee-eaters, but they are just as beautiful.

The Green Bee-eater, like other bee-eaters, is a richly coloured, slender bird. It is about 9 inches (16–18 cm) long with about 2 inches made up by the elongated central tail-feathers. The sexes are not visually distinguishable. The entire plumage is bright green and tinged with blue especially on the chin and throat. The crown and upper back are tinged with golden rufous. The flight feathers are rufous washed with green and tipped with black. A fine black line runs in front of and behind the eye. The iris is crimson and the bill is black while the legs are dark grey. Southeast Asian birds have rufous crown and face, and green underparts, whereas Arabian beludschicus has a green crown, blue face and bluish underparts. The wings are green and the beak is black. The elongated tail feathers are absent in juveniles. The calls is a nasal trill tree-tree-tree-tree, usually given in flight.

The Hoopoe is a medium sized bird, 25–32 cm (9.8–12.6 in) long, with a 44–48 cm (17–19 in) wingspan. It weighs 46–89 g (1.6–3.1 oz). The species is highly distinctive, with a long, thin tapering bill that is black with a fawn base. The strengthened musculature of the head allows the bill to be opened when probing inside the soil. It has broad and rounded wings capable of strong flight and a characteristic undulating flight, which is like that of a giant butterfly, caused by the wings half closing at the end of each beat or short sequence of beats.

The call is typically a trisyllabic oop-oop-oop, which gives rise to its English and scientific names, although two and four syllables are also common. Other calls include rasping croaks, when alarmed, and hisses. Both genders, when disturbed, call a rough charrrrrr.

I'm lucky to have them so close but they are probably not far away from your house either as long as your neighbourhood contains lots of trees and you don't live in the city centre, so keep your eyes and especially your ears in the case of the Hoopoe, open and you to could find that your also neighbours with two of the most beautiful birds in Thailand, if not the world!



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