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Bee-eaters breed in Cumbria

Two pairs are raising chicks at a quarry

Two pairs of rare bee-eaters have set up home and are raising chicks at a quarry in Cumbria.

With their kaleidoscopic plumage, bee-eaters are one of Europe’s most striking and beautiful birds.

They are normally found nesting in southern Europe and are a very rare breeding bird in the UK. However, visits have increased in recent years, prompting speculation of colonisation.

Last year, two pairs successfully raised chicks on the Isle of Wight and prior to this, birds nested in Herefordshire in 2005, County Durham in 2002, and in Sussex in 1955.

The Cumbria bee-eaters are residing at Hanson UK’s Low Gelt sand quarry near Brampton in the North Pennines, where they have made nests by burrowing tunnels in the quarry banks. They were discovered by the quarry’s foreman who noticed the colourful birds flying amongst the site’s colony of nesting sand martins.

Hanson UK alerted the RSPB who quickly set up 24-hour nest protection programme in June.

Mark Thomas, from the RSPB, said: “Bee-eater sightings have really been on the increase in recent springs and we’re delighted to confirm they are breeding in the UK for the second consecutive summer. Pushed northwards by climate change, it is highly likely that these exotic birds will soon become established visitors to our shores thanks to partnerships like this one with Hanson.”

Hanson UK’s senior sustainability manager Martin Crow said: “We often have to cordon off areas in our quarries where sand martins and little ringed plovers are breeding, but a bee-eater sighting was a surprise to us all. Great credit goes to the employees at Low Gelt for recognising and protecting these birds.”

The RSPB has set up a viewpoint on the perimeter of the quarry, offering visitors excellent views of the birds. From tomorrow (Saturday 1 August) staff will be there daily from 8am to 8pm until the birds leave at the end of the summer. Parking is available next to the quarry for a small charge. Please note that entry to the quarry is strictly prohibited.

Bee-eaters are a schedule 1 species, which means that intentional or reckless disturbance of their nests is a criminal offence.


31st July 2015