Visions of Bee-eaters

For a long time in my middle childhood and through to the end of my teenage years, from the moment I came into possession of my first colour guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, I would pass many an hour perusing through its pages, seeking out my ten “most wanted” birds. Under those all-too-often grey skies and the winter twilight of my semi-suburban southern England I was comforted in my personal quest for the exuberant forms, but mostly for the colour, that many of the exotic-looking birds therein had to offer their beholder.

Bee-eaters Merops apiaster

There, in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother, while he lay on his back sifting through the back issues of our joint collection of Marvel comics, I was busy drawing up a mental list of the species that I just had to see at some time in my life. The Wrneck- just look at that intricate plumage pattern! The Redstart and the Pied Flycatcher – what combinations of colours! The Bearded Tit – that sleek, blue-grey head with the Fu Manch moustache, wow! It would be an insult to nature not to try and see these birds. And then there was the assemblage of birds which inhabited what seemed to me at the time to be the far-flung corners of the Old Continent: the Roller, the Hoopoe and, of course, the brilliant Bee-eater.

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