Having said that and having now spent so many hours in close proximity to less colourful UK species, my appreciation has grown of the beauty that can be seen in both form and subtle variations and patterns of plumage.
Unfortunately the European Bee-eater is a bird that rarely appears in the UK except for the occasional vagrant that turns up along the east coast. So my only chance to see one would be to head either southwards or eastwards or preferably both. Last summer I took a week long bird photography trip to Hungary in eastern Europe which was truly amazing and high on the list of species to photograph was at last the enigmatic bee-eater.
The bird life in Hungary is in a different league from the UK. As I travelled across the country to the eastern Hortobagy region there were two very obvious reasons why the numbers of birds was so much greater. Firstly the insect life was much more abundant, partly due to a warmer climate, but the really striking feature was the better quality of bird habitat provided by less intensive farming practices. Instead of fields ploughed to the very edge to extract every last pound of crop from it, there were broad margins of natural vegetation, trees had been left and drainage was open reed filled channels that snaked across multiple feeds providing connecting corridors. Its not rocket science to help birds by providing good habitat and the decline of many species in the UK must surely be the result of economic pressures that accompany modern farming practices.
A butterfly for breakfast.
Given the limited time available I needed to get camera busy. The birds were coming in regularly both with and without prey. Suddenly I heard geese and then I heard a dog and in front of us, making their way down the track, was a farmer with hound and in front of them a flock of around 300 geese on course to go right past the colony. This disturbed the birds for around 30 minutes. 30 minutes later the honks of geese return they all came back past once again. The limited time had now been cut in half!
Another bird returns with a bee. No flying insect is safe from the efficient aerial predation of a bee-eater.