The underground nest of Böhm's Bee-eater

Jun 22, 2009 Mvuu Camp
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Location: Mvuu Camp, Liwonde National Park
Date: June 2009
Observers: Sue Snyman

Arriving at Mvuu Camp on the Shire River in Liwonde National Park is always breathtaking. It is one of the noisier camps in Malawi. The greeting of the hippos as well as their night time calls are particularly characteristic, as of course is the cry of the African Fish-Eagle. While the dawn chorus is a delight, your nocturnal slumbers are kept company by the eerie whoop of the spotted hyaena and the shrill scream of the thick-tailed bushbaby.

Birding at Mvuu is a must for all keen birders. Specials include Livingstone's Flycatcher, African Skimmer, Black-throated Wattle-eye, White-backed Night Heron, Dickinson's Kestrel, Collared Palm-thrush and Spur-winged Plover. Whether you are on a game drive, guided game walk, boat safari or just strolling around the camp there is always something to catch your attention and the over 400 recorded bird species will certainly keep you busy.

Perhaps the most eye-catching species however, is the Böhm's Bee-eater. There are a number of pairs resident in camp, their delicate tails and rich colours delighting guests.

During my recent stay at Mvuu Camp and while sitting in the children's play area I was thrilled to watch two Böhm's Bee-eaters confidingly perched on a dead log near where I was sitting. As I watched first one and then the other landed on the ground in a sandy patch, looking as though they were going to dust bathe. A few seconds later one disappeared head first into the ground and I realised that this was in fact the entrance to their underground nest. I didn't check, but apparently the depth of these holes can be anything from 70-100cm.

I continued to watch them come and go for another 15 minutes ... the same procedure every time ... a dust bath, flicking sand into the air and then disappearing suddenly into the ground - a fascinating peek into the domestic life of these beautiful birds.

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