Monday, 25 May 2015

Spotted Flycatcher

Seven long years. That is how long it took to add Spotted Flycatcher to the Cuddesdon bird list. But today was that day. A movement in the top of the willows by the River Thame. A movement that returned to the branch from where it had flown, pumped it's tail and looked over it's shoulder as if to say "hello boys". There was a brief moment of celebration, arms raised to the sky. But only after I had the record shot:

I suspect that 20 years ago there were several pairs in the village and the species was regular as a migrant. Not now, Spotted Flycatcher is a very scarce local bird in the county. Could the systematic use of insecticide over several decades have contributed to the decline of this insectivore? 

I was down by the river as it was time for the second part of the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey for the BTO. It wasn't easy this year as the meadows by the River are being grazed by what turned out to be a particular aggressive herd of cows. I tried ignoring them, then shouting at them and ended up having to climb over a fence to avoid their attention. Last month our neighbour Salt (first introduced on these blog pages here) had to throw himself into the river to avoid the bull. Not wishing to copy his moves, as I was with camera, I choose the "safety" of the huge beds of nipple-high stinging nettles in the woods instead. 

Away from the trauma of actually completing the survey, most of the expected summer migrants were back: Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, ChiffchaffsWhitethroats. The local breeders were in full swing, with a large flock of 15 Long-tailed Tits. The reeds that fringe the narrow River Thame held a few singing Reed Warblers... 

 ... and these birds were attracting the attention of a male Cuckoo:

This bird has been driving me insane in recent weeks. It roosts on the eastern edge of the village and is getting desperate to attract a female. Before this week I had not given any thought to the question "what time does a Cuckoo wake up?". I can now report that on Thursday it began calling at 03:54 and on Friday at 03:42. Even through our double glazing the insistent, onomatopoetic song could pierce my unconsciousness. Fortunately this bird appears to move away from the village soon after waking, allowing me some time to rediscover my own unconsciousness. Or at least a couple of hours before I found myself running from cows and throwing myself into the nettle beds again. 

81 species for the year, 107 in total since 2008. 


  1. Funny about that Spotted Flycatcher Tom as up here at Garsington we seem to be on a flightpath. Every year at almost the same time the Flycatchers seem to stop off and re-fuel in the Churchyard and close environs,and of course we're just on the hill just over from you, I can confirm that certainly in the late Seventies and early Eighties there were nests in Garsington and Denton.

    1. Hi Steve, yes, your reports of Spotted Flycatcher from nearby Garsington have been torturing me for a while now! I assume that the greater height of Garsington and the larger area of mature trees are just more attractive to any migrant Spotted Flycatchers than Cuddesdon? Certainly the arable areas around the village are not typical Spotted Flycatcher habitat. It is also good, though rather sad, to have confirmation that this species breed locally in the past. May your migrants stay to breed one year soon! All the best, Tom