By Paul Homewood
h/t Joe Public
Back in June, the BBC published a report claiming that recent sightings of bee-eaters in Norfolk were a “worrying sign of climate change”. It was quickly utterly discredited as old ornithology books show that bee-eater sightings are not uncommon, even in Victorian times,
Nevertheless the BBC continue to double down:
A colony of breeding bee-eaters have successfully hatched chicks in the UK and migrated south for winter, the RSPB has said.
European bee-eaters, rare to UK shores, set up home in a disused quarry in Trimingham, Norfolk, in June.
The RSPB said the flock’s residence was "a red alert for global warming".
The bird’s breeding attempts in the UK have increased, with six nests recorded in the past 20 years, the charity added.
As is par for the course, the BBC offer no actual data to back up their lazy assertions.
So Joe Public has gone one stage further, and uncovered a veritable flock of bee-eater sightings going all the way back to 1793:
All of the records of sightings have been extremely well researched, for example:
1). 1793 Norfolk Mattishall, twenty, one shot, June; same, small flock, seen, October.
(J. E. Smith, Transactions of the Linnean Society 3: 333; Latham, 1801; Fleming, 1828; Jenyns, 1835; Yarrell, 1845; Gurney, 1876; Yarrell, 1871-85; Gurney, 1884, 1921; Riviere, 1930).
History James Edward Smith (1794) in the Transactions of the Linnean Society, Vol. III. p. 333, in extracts from the minutes read on 2nd July, 1794, says: ‘The President communicated an account of Merops apiaster, the Bee-eater, having been shot (for the first time in Great Britain), near Mattishall, in the county of Norfolk, by the Rev. George Smith. The identical specimen was exhibited, by permission of Mr. Thomas Talbot, of Wymondham. A flight of about twenty was seen in June, and the same flight probably (much diminished in numbers) was observed passing over the same spot in October following.’
Latham (1801: 149, 2nd supp.) says: ‘The Bee-eater has been observed at Mattishall, in Norfolk, in a flock, about twenty in number; and one of them shot by the Reverend George Smith which was exhibited to the Linnean Society. This flock passed near the above place in June, and again, on their return in October following, 1793, but in reduced numbers.’
Fleming (1828: 90) says: ‘An individual was shot at Mattishall in Norfolk, a notice of which was communicated to the Linnean Society, 2nd July 1794, by the Rev. George Smith: "A flight of about twenty was seen in June, and the same flight, probably (much diminished in numbers), was observed passing over the same spot in October following". Linn. Trans. III. 333.’
Jenyns (1835: 156) says: ‘A flight of about twenty was observed near Mattishall in Norfolk, and one killed, in June, 1794.’
Yarrell (1845 (2): 217-218, 2nd ed.) says: ‘No specimen of the Common Bee-eater of Africa appears to be recorded to have been killed in England till the summer of 1794, when a communication was made to the Linnean Society, and a specimen of this beautiful bird was exhibited by the President, Sir James Edward Smith, which had been shot out of a flock of about twenty near Mattishall, Norfolk, in the month of June, by the Rev. George Smith, and a portion probably of this same flight, much diminished in numbers, was observed passing over the same spot in the month of October following.’
Gurney (1876: 148) in a footnote, says: ‘The first known British specimens of the Bee-eater were shot in Norfolk in 1794. One of them was given by Mr. Thomas Talbot of Wymondham to Sir J. E. Smith, who after lending it to Mr. Lewin to take its portrait (B. B. II. p. 28) and exhibiting it to the Linnean Society, gave it – according to the late Mr. Lombe’s MS. – to Lord Stanley, and I suppose it is now in the Museum of Liverpool.’
Alfred Newton (1876-82 (2): 435-436, 4th ed.) in Yarrell’s British Birds, adds: ‘…shot at Mattishall in Norfolk, in June 1793, as Latham (Syn. Suppl. II. p. 149) says, out of a flight of about twenty, some survivors of which probably were observed at the same spot in the following October (Trans. Linn. Soc. III. p. 333). The specimen was figured by Lewin (Br. B. pl. 43), whose plate is dated "Nov. 7, 1793", and, having been given by Smith to Lord Derby, is now with the rest of his collection at Liverpool, as its curator Mr. T. J. Moore believes.’
Gurney (1884: 20) says: ‘The first killed in England were two shot at Mattishall in 1793.’ Gurney (1921) p. 229 in his Early Annals of Ornithology lists the first record for Britain as occurring in 1793 (Sir J. E. Smith).
Altogether the archive lists 80 sightings between 1793 and 1957. In addition there are many other potential sightings which have been rejected due to lack of definite proof.
Interestingly many of the earlier sightings mention the birds being shot, which was of course the norm in Victorian times. It is hardly surprising that the poor little blighters did not hang around for breeding!!
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September 1, 2022 at 12:07PM