This week a pair of Spotted Flycatchers had a lucky escape at Denmark Farm. Eagle-eyed campers noticed a nondescript brown bird entering the flue of the wood burner for the yurt. It seemed possible that they had seen a Spotted Flycatcher using the pipe as a nest site so I popped up to take a look and confirm this. Sure enough, within a few minutes it became clear that two birds were present. One was taking insects from the centre of the field, using fence posts to swoop up and take passing prey. The other was seen to enter the flue and didn’t emerge for some time. The yurt was last used 3 weeks ago but with visitors due this weekend it was fortunate that the birds were seen as it would obviously have resulted in a minor tragedy had the burner been lit.
Spotted Flycatchers are related to the Pied Flycatchers which are much more commonly observed at Denmark Farm using the many bird boxes around the site. Unlike them, they are drab, brown birds lacking a distinctive song. Though they are vocal their calls are similar to a number of other species and so they can be overlooked. However, once discovered it becomes obvious that they are not shy and retiring. They hunt from exposed perches with fast, agile and acrobatic dives which are enthralling to watch. When I lived at Talsarn a pair nested in our shed and as a boy I remember a pair took up residence on a hanging basket right next to our front door.
Spotted Flycatchers are the last summer migrant to arrive, some perhaps not even getting here until June. They are still widespread across the UK but have suffered a dramatic decline in abundance of nearly 90% since 1970. The reasons for this are believed to lie either on their migration route or else their wintering grounds in the humid zone of West Africa.
It’s hard to say what stage this nest is at. Incubation takes 11-15 days. That might allow just enough time for a nest to have been built and incubation to occur, meaning very young nestlings are now being fed, weather permitting. Alternatively, things are still at an early stage and incubation has yet to occur. We’ll have to keep an eye on the situation. Let us wish the Flycatchers success and hope campers get to use the burner again soon! – Ian Morris
In the meantime we continue to welcome campers to stay on the Eco Campsite and yurt at Denmark Farm, so long as the stove in the yurt is not used until these lovely birds have fledged.