“Our home is situated in the flight path of bee-eaters. They often also stop by as we have many trees and bushes, some flowering, so lots of bees to eat.
“Many mornings at about 7.10-7.45 am I would hear the Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters (Merops leschenaulti leschenaultia) fly past (south-west to north-east), from their night roost to their day feeding sites (left). In the evenings, if I am back early enough from work, around 6.15-7.00 pm we can hear their return journey. Both times there is lots of calling “berek-berek” to keep the group together, with stragglers following in the wake (and calls) of the leaders. Often the group is small, about 6-7, occasionally up to 15.
“In the past (6-8 years ago) we were also in the flight path of the migratory Blue-tailed Bee-eater (M. philippinus philippinus). And close to their departure period northwards I have seen in excess of 200 birds collecting. Unfortunately not into bird photography at that time (only children at work).
“I had taken leave from work on Wednesday and was working on a post to you guys when I heard the usual calls of the Chestnut-headed Bee-eater going ‘homeward’. The calls were in greater volume than usual. I ran out with camera in hand and was surprised to see in excess of 34 birds (counted from images, possibly up to 40, with more stragglers not counted).
“Instead of flying past as usual they began to circle over our home. Spiralling like raptors, higher and higher. Calling out to each other, with more and more joining the group.
“The activity appeared to me to be twofold: 1. Waiting for straggles to catch up; 2. Also to gain altitude for the final push ‘homeward’.
“Now the surprising part.
“I had called out my wife to watch this wonder and I am grateful I had my wife beside me as a witness to this. I probably would not have believed it myself. As they circled higher and higher, they reach a certain point/moment/decision and all rushed south ward. And they disappeared into a cloud (right). These were large clouds and I had not realised the birds were so high us as to fly into a cloud
“Some images to attempt to describe the scene (poor substitute). My handheld video was very poor. The whole activity took 5-6 minutes (6.52-6.57 pm). All the birds were Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters”
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Canning Garden Home, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
12th January 2011