Worcestershire Record No. 26 April 2009 p. 39


An appeal for help from John Clarke

For the past eight years John Clarke has been studying Spotted Flycatchers in villages in south Worcestershire. The bird is in serious decline in Britain – the population has crashed by more than 70% in the past 20 years or so. In Worcestershire this endearing small migrant from southern Africa is now mainly confined to a few villages and the situation is similar in many other counties.

The British Trust for Ornithology receives records of breeding birds from volunteers around the country but there are not enough to provide detailed information about all species. This is particularly true for the Spotted Flycatcher, which in many areas is now breeding almost exclusively in private gardens and orchards where there is no public access.

John’s survey has enlisted the help and cooperation of local communities to locate pairs in the villages and the project has been very successful. Now he would like to find out more about the distribution of the Spotted Flycatcher further afield and he is asking for your help. He would like people to watch for the birds from early May onwards and to see if they are nesting in their garden or local area. They would almost certainly be breeding if you saw evidence of a pair regularly – they have quite a small territory, rarely feeding more than 25-50 metres from the nest site. Their habit of sitting on prominent perches from where they hunt flying insects makes them easier to see than hear as they have a very week song.

John has set up an email address or you can send information by post (see below). Once you have located a pair all that he requires is that you tell him the 6-figure Ordnance Survey grid reference for your sighting, the date that you found the pair and your name and address so that he can produce a distribution map – for example:

Spotted Flycatcher record

Joe Bloggs – The Granary, Goddlethorpe, Worcs. – OS ref BC765 432 – 6/6/09.

If you can watch your nest without disturbing the birds and note the outcome – how many young fledge, how many broods etc – John will always be interested in extra information and observations but the above details are the critical requirement. If you have two or more pairs in your area it would be good to get separate records – Spotted Flycatchers often nest in ‘clusters’ in one area of a village so where there is one pair you may find others. Perhaps your neighbours have another pair? Have they nested near you in the past two years – that would also be important information. You could also help by putting a small note about the survey, with details of what is required, in your local Parish Magazine.

John hopes to use the information to gain a better understanding of where the remaining population of birds choose to breed. He is hoping that people from several counties will take part and would appreciate your help.

Email address: flycatcherdata@googlemail.com

Postal address: Ivy Cottage, Kemerton, Tewkesbury, GL20 7HY

Spotted flycatchers not infrequently use old nests of other birds. John Clarke has found they readily use half-coconut shells as shown above. A shell fixed in a suitable place in a creeper may well be used.

Spotted Flycatcher nest © John Clarke Spotted Flycatcher © John Robinson

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