By John Clarke
Hearing about the huge national decline in Spotted Flycatchers and knowing that we still had a few pairs breeding around Kemerton, I asked for local help in carrying out a survey. I originally hoped to cover Kemerton, Kinsham, Overbury and Westmancote but the response was so great that I was 'obliged' to add the east end of Bredon, Bredons Norton, Conderton, Beckford and Ashton under Hill!
The survey method was somewhat unusual in that it combined searches conducted from the road and information sent in by householders. In addition I collected anecdotal information about past nesting. Once a territory had been located, in order to find the nest site it was necessary to gain access to neighbouring gardens. Again, the response was amazing - an estimated 70 people co-operated in the survey, inviting me into their gardens, asking about the birds and on occasions providing afternoon tea!
Due to the sheer scale of the survey, the fact that access was on rare occasions not granted, coverage was not constant for all the villages. However, it was better to have low coverage than none at all - especially as the survey was clearly raising public interest and awareness.
The results were very mixed. Despite thorough searches, no Spotted Flycatchers were found in the east end of Bredon (last known record 1990), in Westmancote (1999) or Kinsham (1999); and only one pair was found in Bredons Norton. Ashton under Hill and Beckford were not searched but three pairs were reported and confirmed in the former and one in the latter. Conderton (five pairs), Kemerton (ten pairs) and Overbury (ten pairs) were thoroughly searched.
From the 30 definite pairs identified, 23 nests were found and monitored. Later a further ten nests (second attempts and second broods) were also found and monitored. BTO nest record cards were sent in for the 33 nests, together with a short report. A second report has been written for circulation amongst the 'Bredon Hill Flycatcher Gang' as it is now locally known!
The survey has confirmed that the Spotted Flycatcher has disappeared from many of its previous sites and indeed entire villages, but that it is still common in others. 'Recorder' shows that apart from two sightings in the early 90's, there have been no records of the species in farmland or woodland on the Kemerton Estate since 1986. In effect, despite the widespread distribution of what appears to be suitable habitat, the decline is probably similar to the figure of 80% quoted nationally.
One unexpected but positive outcome of this survey was the discovery that villagers are extremely fond of the Spotted Flycatcher. There has been enormous interest in the survey and it is clear that many local people are keen to do what they can to encourage and protect the birds.
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