There are many moments in my guiding career that I will never forget – some of them big, like seeing a lioness carrying a cub for the first time, or witnessing my first kill, or even the first time I saw a pangolin. But there are also many smaller moments that remind me just how much I love doing what I do, like seeing a guest see a giraffe for the first time or the time we saw a monkey fall out of a tree in such a comical way it left the whole vehicle in stitches of laughter. But the one moment that will stick with me forever is the first time I heard the call of a European Bee-eater returning from its migration. It truly wasn’t the most spectacular moment, yet somehow it made me smile, and for that reason, it became my favourite bird call, since then every year around this time I keep a keen ear out to listen for when it returns from its migration north.
The European Bee-eater is not the only Bee-eater we see here at Londolozi, there are in fact four different types to be seen. The other three being: The Southern Carmine, Little and White-fronted Bee-eater (with the Swallow-tailed being a very rare fifth), all equally beautiful.
The Little Bee-eater is the world’s smallest Bee-eater and we are lucky enough to see it here throughout the year as it does not migrate. You often see them in pairs or small family parties perched on an open branch more roughly one meter above the ground, where it will sit patiently waiting for passing insects in which to quickly pursue, catch, then often returning to the same perch from which it was patiently waiting. A firm favourite of many as its striking green and yellow plumage adds a lovely splash of colour to the surrounding environment.
With a distinct white and red throat, the White-fronted Bee-eater is also seen here all year-round. At this time of year, I have noticed an increased number of them in and around the camps as many trees and flowers are starting to bloom which attracts bees and other flying insects, which makes up the majority of their food – (hence the name Bee-eaters). They have a rather interesting social structure which ranger Kirst Joscelyne explains in a blog.
The Southern Carmine Bee-eater is an intra-African migrant, (meaning that it migrates within Africa) has a striking pinkish-red plumage and also happens to be Africa’s largest bee-eater. They are soon to return from Central Southern Africa (Angola, Zambia, and DRC). These highly gregarious birds are often seen sitting side by side on perches near water sources.
Lastly my favourite, the European bee-eater. Not only do I find the liquid kruup kruup call beautiful, but the stunning turquoise underparts and the bright yellow throat are quite something to marvel at. In fact, quite literally in the last few days, they have returned from their winter migration to Europe, where flocks of anywhere from 20 to 200 birds fly together. This is a sign that summer is officially here. All through summer, you will hear them calling from the skies above as they hunt their prey.
So next time you are here at Londolozi, make sure to keep a lookout for these four magical birds.