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Nature Note - Spotted Flycatcher

The Spotted Flycatcher is one of the latest of our summer visitors to return from Africa and is rarely seen locally before mid-May. It is not colourful; grey-brown on the back, off-white underneath and with streaking on the crown, throat and upper breast. There are obvious bristles around the mouth when viewed at close quarters.

Its appeal is its upright stance, perched on an obvious look-out point from which it flies, grabs a passing insect and almost invariably returns to the same look-out. Pairs can be found in open woodland but are more often seen locally in churchyards and large gardens. They build a nest against a tree-trunk or wall, in dense vegetation such as Ivy.

The most easily recognised call is a repeated “wee tuc-tuc”. However, Spotted Flycatcher is a difficult bird to find by call as it is often ‘drowned’ by noisier species. It is not showy but has a charm that makes its return each year a special day for birders.

In recent years, Wistow, Gumley, Arnesby and Foston churchyards have been good places to look for this species. However, it is getting harder to find as the UK population breeding population has declined by 87% since 1970.
Although it is a small bird (no bigger than a sparrow), it is now possible to fit tiny geo-locators in order to try to find out habitat requirements in the UK, in Africa in winter, and on migration. A tracking project being undertaken by the British Trust for Ornithology is attempting to identify what needs to be done to halt and if possible reverse the decline in numbers.

You can find out more about this project at www.bto.org.

P.S. Orange Tip butterflies (Nature Note April) did me proud. Out of 40 butterflies counted on my weekly transect walk in Great Glen on 30th April I recorded 22 Orange Tips (55%)!

David Scott
Issue 412
May 2019

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