Worcestershire Record No. 25 November 2008 p. 32


John Clarke

Weather conditions were not good at the beginning and end of this the eighth year of the survey. Flycatchers forsook their regular feeding perches and instead fed high in the tree canopy, making it extremely difficult to locate breeding pairs and later to re-find birds whose first nesting attempt had failed. However, persistent surveying and a great deal of help from local people paid off and we located 22 pairs. We also found 37 nests, all of which were monitored. Despite the weather some birds arrived early. One pair was on territory by the 10th May, nest building on 19th May, and by the 25th the female was incubating five eggs. The four young were the first to fledge - on 25th June.

The nest failure rate (excluding nest-building stage) was 37%. Seven pairs made second breeding attempts after failing, with two going on to make third attempts – only one pair failed to breed. Six of the seven pairs attempting second broods succeeded – the last two broods fledging between 16th and 18th August. A minimum of 84 young fledged but the actual total may be higher as constant monitoring of all pairs was not possible (see above). The average number of young fledged per pair was 3.82 – the second highest annual figure for the study.

Of the 37 nests three were in old blackbird nests, four in small nest boxes and 18 in coconut shells.

The flycatcher study has now located a total of 328 nests of which 317 have been monitored. The study would not be possible without the help of many local people and the support of some 120 households, to whom I am extremely grateful.

In addition to the normal study I also carried out feeding observations at nest sites. The aims were to try to distinguish size of prey being fed to the young and to observe adult feeding behaviour and strategy. Each observation period lasted for one hour and I tried to carry out two sets of observations at each site during the first and second weeks of the chicks’ development. In all I spent 21 hours at a total of 12 sites. I am waiting for some scientific advice before collating the data in its most useful form.

It was during one of the one-hour observations that I twice witnessed a sparrowhawk attack directly on the nest. There were no adult flycatchers or other species around and the brood of large young had already been reduced to one. The hawk flew in over a garden hedge and straight up to the nest site concealed in creeper just above a kitchen window. I drove it off twice in 20 minutes but the following day the last youngster had gone.

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