It’s widely known that Spotted Flycatchers are in decline in the UK. If you’re really unlucky, it’s possible to go for an entire summer season without seeing one locally. If you’re unlucky.
In Northants I believed the number of localities at which this species has been occurring has been falling year on year. However, I had a quick look at the records for the past 16 years (the number of localities wasn’t flagged up in the county bird report prior to this as a result of the species’ apparent abundance) and I was surprised to find this isn’t entirely so.
Apart from a ‘blip’ between 2005 and 2010 the number of sites has remained relatively stable. What’s apparent, though, is there are fewer records in recent years and the occasionally large numbers recorded in the ‘90s – e.g. 50+ at Cottesbrooke Park on 8th August 1995 and 30+ there on 10th August 1996 appear to be a thing of the past.
While the decline may be national the BTO have thrown up some interesting data which show a marked shift in distribution northwards and westwards, with local population increases noted in Scotland, Ireland and some parts of Wales against a marked national decline of 89% between 1967 and 2010 and a decline by 46% across Europe between 1980 and 2013. More about the distribution changes on the BTO website. Thanks to Simon Hales for images.
First-winter, in July and present for just one day. A local scarcity with only one or two records per year. Thanks to this excellent set of images by Steve Brayshaw we can confidently age last weekend’s Denton Wood Pied Flycatcher as a first-winter.
A combination of characters set this bird apart from adult female and non-breeding male but the clincher is the pattern on the middle tertial: broad white fringe on the outer web, thickening at the tip while extending slightly down the shaft, creating a ‘step’ effect where it joins the thinner, white border on the inner web.
In adults the white fringe is narrow and more uniform in width, like that on the lower tertial of this individual. Other first-winter features include the slightly darker throat, making the pale submoustacial stripe stand out, paler tips to some of the median coverts, curved white tips to the greater coverts forming a ‘sawtooth’ effect and the relatively pointed tail feathers.
Black (not brown-black) tail and upper tail coverts suggest this is a young male. A very smart bird indeed!
The male Pied Flycatcher, which was present at Daventry Country Park on 19th and 20th April this year, was initially aged as a first-summer on the basis of its brown wings. It has recently come to light, however, that worn, brown wings are not a safe criterion upon which to age this species.
Writing on Martin Garner’s blog, here, Paul Baxter has demonstrated that, by retrapping a ringed male Pied Flycatcher of known age in Deeside, second-summers can also show this feature. The brown feathers are faded first adult type from the previous autumn obtained during its complete winter moult. There is then a partial summer moult producing newer, black feathers, which contrast with the older faded adult feathers, resulting in the contrast exhibited by this bird. So, the Daventry bird is best left unaged.
The Daventry area was again the focus of attention today with a male Pied Flycatcher attracting a steady stream of admirers to the country park, while nearby Borough Hill played host to a female (or first-summer male) Black Redstart.
Both were found during the morning and they were still present this evening, with the flycatcher favouring an oak tree (with an obvious nest-box) on the edge a large clump of Blackthorn scrub below the dam, about 80 metres east of the visitor centre. It was very active in this area and it was also heard singing at one point during late afternoon. Neil Hasdell kindly provided the images below.
The brownish primaries and coverts, along with the rather small white forehead indicate it is a first-summer.
Overlooking the park, nearby Borough Hill produced its second Black Redstart of the spring with this rather mobile individual commuting between the fence around the small compound by the car park and the fence on the northern side of the main compound.
Thanks are again due to Neil for supplying this image, taken in weak early evening sunlight, of a rubbish bag supporting a not-so-rubbish bird!