When he’s not working, writer and former UK journalist STEVE PARSLEY spends quite a bit of time walking the woods around Fethiye with four-legged companion Dillon and posting their discoveries on Facebook.
Fethiye Times asked if he would share some of his encounters with the local wildlife with us – and, this week, we have a bit to share on some transient visitors.
I can relax now. They’re a couple of weeks late this year and I was beginning to wonder if they would be coming at all.
But, yesterday, as we walked the woods above Kayaköy (and pondered the implications of the new road being scratched from the hillside on the south side of the valley) we heard their tell-tale trilling call for the first time.
As ever, they were hard to spot against the wide blue arch of the sky. A bit of cumulus drifting over from Mendos made their high-up, starling-sized silhouettes that little bit easier to pick out as they flitted and glided on bladed wings, forked tails aiding swift turns, allowing them to catch their prey in flight.
But as evocative as their calls may be of sultry summer afternoons, and although their agile flight is a joy to watch, it’s the vivid colours which make European bee-eaters special for me.
When I was a kid, there was one on the cover of the first bird book I was given and I can remember thinking then that most common or garden birds in the UK seemed a little drab in comparison.
So to see that striking blue, yellow and brown plumage in real life for the first time a few years ago was a special moment which perhaps underlined the fact we weren’t living in Yorkshire anymore (although, to be fair, so had encounters with snakes, scorpions and beetles the size of a Ford Fiesta).
Ever since I have found myself eagerly anticipating the bee-eaters’ brief stays in the Kaya Valley in April and September and, for me, they have come to symbolise the arrival and departure of the summer. Like I say, when there was no sign of them this year, I was beginning to worry what that would mean – but they’re here now, so all is well.
As the name implies, after wintering in tropical Africa, many European bee-eaters cross the Mediterranean to make their nests in the continent’s southern nations – not just in parts of Turkey but in Spain, Italy, Greece and even the Balkans. There are reports of some birds flying as far as the UK, and even of them breeding there – but they are rare visitors and usually attract significant interest as a result.
The birds are gregarious and nest in colonies, usually in sandy banks close to water and they are mostly monogamous. Here in the Muğla region, we’re just a little too far south for them to stay for long as they will usually summer further inland – and no doubt there will be plenty of Turkish beekeepers in the forests around Fethiye who won’t be too unhappy about that.
But, despite their name, the birds do less damage to hives that you would expect, accounting for the demise of less than 1% of the worker bees in their usual range.
Their diet also consists of wasps and hornets, making them an even more popular bird among some in our household, while they will also take dragonflies on the wing if they can.
But, soon, they will be gone again – and the mellow sound of their calls and the bright colours of their plumage will be replaced by the screech of the cicadas and the real heat of high summer.
Rebecca & Steve Parsley are both former journalists with experience in newspapers, magazines and on radio. Since 2006 they have run their own communications agency, specialising in social media and online content writing. They moved to Turkey just over four years ago and live in Kayaköy with their German Shepherd dog, Dillon – formerly a street dog – and two cats. When not slaving over their keyboards or walking in the local countryside, they enjoy watching motorsport – especially Formula 1 – and are also salsa dance addicts.