Bird watchers set to flock to Norfolk quarry after rare bee-eaters spotted

A pair of colourful bee-eaters at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk.

A pair of colourful bee-eaters at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Mike Edgecombe

With their brightly coloured wings and beautiful song, a colony of bee-eaters is setting hearts a-flutter in north Norfolk.

The seven birds - usually only seen in southern Europe and northern Africa - were first spied by local birdwatcher Andy Chamberlain over the jubilee weekend.

A bee-eater at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk.

A bee-eater at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Tom Whiley tomwhileybirdart.blogspot.com

They have since been seen making nest burrows in a small quarry at Trimingham, near Cromer.

The birds are a rare sight in the UK, although there have been some sightings in Norfolk before, including at Great Yarmouth last year

Bee-eaters nesting at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. 

Bee-eaters nesting at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Tom Whiley tomwhileybirdart.blogspot.com

Mark Thomas from the RSPB said: "These seven bee-eaters are certainly the most colourful and exciting birds you can see in the UK right now.

"In 2017, thousands of people caught sight of the birds in Nottinghamshire, and we expect the same will happen again here in Norfolk."

Bee-eaters in the trees at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. 

Bee-eaters in the trees at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Tom Whiley tomwhileybirdart.blogspot.com

Behind the spectacle are concerns that these exotic birds should be enjoying the Mediterranean climate.

Mr Thomas said increasingly regular visits to these shores, even in small numbers, is a worrying sign of how our climate is changing before our eyes.

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He said: "Pushed northwards by climate change, these exotic birds will likely become established summer visitors in the future, having been an early and unmissable sign in the past two decades that the nature and climate emergency has reached our shores.”

The quarry at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk, where the bee-eaters have taken up residence.

The quarry at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk, where the bee-eaters have taken up residence. - Credit: Tom Whiley tomwhileybirdart.blogspot.com

Holt-based wildlife photographer Tom Whiley is among the bird watchers who have already flocked to the site off Gimingham Road, which the RSPB is now overseeing and charging £5 for parking to pay for monitoring. 

Mr Whiley said he was stunned by the beauty of the birds, which have red backs, blue bellies and yellow throats.

A bee-eater at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk.

A bee-eater at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Tom Whiley tomwhileybirdart.blogspot.com

He said: “They’re fantastic. This has also happened over the past few years at quarries in the Midlands.”

The bird charity is working with the  North-East Norfolk Bird Club to ensure visitors can watch the bee-eaters from a safe distance, so they have the best chance at nesting. 

Bee-eaters at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk.

Bee-eaters at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Mike Edgecombe

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

A pair of colourful bee-eaters at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk.

A pair of colourful bee-eaters at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Mike Edgecombe

Bee-eaters in the trees at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk.

Bee-eaters in the trees at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: Mike Edgecombe