Springhills special visitor ...... the Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher 4

Spotted Flycatchers feed almost exclusively on flying insects which they catch by dashing from a perch, usually a bare twig or branch, grabbing the insect in their bill and returning to their original perch. They migrate to the U.K to breed building a robust nest of twigs, moss and grass, lined with hair and feathers. They favour areas of woodland, parks and hedgerows which have mature broadleaved trees. The presence of water also increases the richness of insect life and therefore food. For all these reasons, Springhill is the perfect place.

Robust and warm nest for the flycatcher family at Springhill
Spotted Flycatcher nest
Robust and warm nest for the flycatcher family at Springhill

How National Trust Rangers play their part

Maureen Graham (assistant ranger) has been contributing to the BTO Nest Record Scheme, which gathers information on the breeding success of U.K birds by finding and following the progress of individual nests. The data is used to assess the impact that changes in the environment have on the number of young that birds can rear. This year as part of the survey Maureen found and followed the progress of the Springhill flycatcher pair. They were very attentive parents; bringing insects to the nest constantly and successfully raised four healthy chicks.

The wonderful sight of healthy chicks
Spotted Flycatcher nest 7
The wonderful sight of healthy chicks

Working with local bird ringer Mark Edgar and National Trust volunteer and trainee ringer Jackie Arrell, Maureen was able to organise the ringing of the four chicks. Placing a lightweight, uniquely numbered, metal ring around a bird’s leg provides a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals.

The chicks have their rings fitted for future identification
Spotted Flycatcher 1
The chicks have their rings fitted for future identification

Bird ringing generates data on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, aiding in the understanding of population changes and declines. Bird populations are determined by the number of young raised and the survival of both juveniles and adults. Whilst ringers collect data on survival, the Nest Record Scheme collect information on productivity.

Spotted flycatcher chicks thriving
Spotted Flycatcher 6
Spotted flycatcher chicks thriving

The results can be analysed along with other collected data, resulting in information which can help determine at which stage of a bird’s life cycle there might be a problem. This enables scientists and conservationists to target appropriate mitigation measures to stop declines. Hopefully our data from the Springhill flycatchers will help solve the unknown reason behind their decline.

The magnificent spotted flycatcher at Springhill
Spotted Flycatcher 3
The magnificent spotted flycatcher at Springhill

Visit Springhill and keep an eye out for the Springhill pair and their four fledgling chicks before they make their journey back to South Africa.