Sunday, May 31, 2015

Birding In The Box

As promised, here is an update on a visit to Oakenclough on Saturday to check with Andy the progress of his nest boxes. 

The target bird for the nest box project is Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), a small passerine bird of the Old World flycatcher family and part of a group of insectivorous songbirds which feed by darting after insects. This flycatcher winters in tropical Africa, spending the summer in the northern hemisphere but as far south as the Iberian Peninsula where it is quite common. 

Pied Flycatcher

Pied Flycatchers breed in upland broadleaved woodland. This means that in Britain they are limited due to geography mainly to the North and West where they prefer mature oak woodland with natural tree holes, i.e. dead trees, or dead limbs on healthy trees. The species also takes readily to nest boxes with high horizontal visibility, in woodland where there is a low abundance of shrub and understorey, but a high proportion of moss and grass for their nests. 

Andy - checking a box

A good number of the boxes we checked were occupied by Great Tit or Blue Tit with the adults still brooding tiny youngsters or sitting on clutches as low as 4 eggs or as high as 14 eggs. Given that the weather in the month of May has been mostly poor, the progress so far has been better than expected.   

We found one box contained Nuthatches and ringed 6 youngsters. Four boxes were occupied by Pied Flycatchers where we found females sitting on either 6 or 7 eggs and where by a week or so the youngsters will be large enough to be ringed. 

Pied Flycatcher

Pied Flycatcher

The eggs of the Pied Flycatcher are about 18 mm by 13 mm in size, pale blue, smooth and glossy. The female builds the nest of leaves, grass, moss and lichens, and then lines the cup with hair and wool. The duties of incubating the eggs are performed by the female with the newly-hatched young fed by both adults. 

Pied Flycatcher nest

The Pied Flycatcher is a well-studied species, partly because of its willingness to use nest boxes provided by bird watchers and bird ringers. Detailed study has found that Pied Flycatchers practice polygyny, usually bigamy, with the male travelling large distances to acquire a second mate. The male will mate with the secondary female and then return to the primary female in order to help with aspects of child rearing, such as feeding. 

There are a number of theories around how this apparently poor system benefits the species, but no one knows for sure except that in practice it does work. In 2005 the European population of Pied Flycatcher was estimated at up to 12 million pairs, helped in part by the provision of nest boxes in parts of the species’ range. 

We checked our ringing site for Willow Warbler nests and found at one nest a brood of tiny youngsters, at another nest a female sat on 6 eggs. Dotted around the site a good number of males are in steady song with little sign of their mates, suggesting that most are still at the stage of incubating eggs. Willow Warblers are now a little late this year, no doubt as a result of the poor Spring weather to date. 

Willow Warbler

We’re promised warmer weather for mid-week - let’s hope so. 

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

20 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Great post and report on your nesting boxes. The Pied Flycatcher is a pretty bird. I like to hear that all the songbirds are doing well. The photos are awesome! Happy birding, have a great new week ahead!

Vandana Sharma said...

Wow beautiful and you are doing a great job by protecting them.

Findlay Wilde said...

The only Pied Flycatchers I have seen are in North Wales in my Grandma's wood. They use one her nest boxes. really enjoyed this post.

Linda said...

How wonderful that you are protecting them, and your photos are gorgeous, Phil!

Margaret Adamson said...

Great up dates on the Pied Flycatchers.

David Gascoigne said...

I have seen Pied Flycatchers many times and I find it a very appealing little bird. I had not realized that it took so readily to nest boxes, but it's a great thing that it does so, since natural cavities can hardly be expected to become more plentiful, given our passion to "clean up" dead trees.

Jo said...

Beautiful images, Phil. While in West Africa, where this bird migrates to from you, we didn't live that far down. But great to see it on your blog. Have a great day. Jo

Adam Jones said...

Great to hear so many birds are successfully nesting, especially the flycatchers. They're among my favourite summer visitors.

Silver Parrot said...

What a wonderful report on these beautiful birds!

carol l mckenna said...

Wonderful post and photos of nature's feathered friends ~ one species is a 'wild man' ~ ha! Love the photo of the nest and beautiful blue eggs!

Happy Week to you,
artmusedog and carol

mick said...

Very interesting post and great to be able to watch the birds in the nests and see the young ones developing. Great photos.

colleen said...

It's always worth a visit to see blue eggs. My chickens lay green eggs.

Fun60 said...

Thanks for showing the eggs in the nest.

Laura said...

Fascinating. Beautiful photos too!

NC Sue said...

A gorgeous bird - so glad I stopped by.
Hope you'll visit my "birdy" shots at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/06/nesting.html and link up at this week's Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)!

Karen said...

How exciting to see what's in the nesting boxes. Those eggs are a gorgeous shade of blue.

Russell Jenkins said...

What a lovely little flycatcher, Phil. I love flycatchers with their big eyes and cheerful demeanour. Great to see the nest boxes are all so successful too.

Gunilla Bäck said...

The flycatcher is a lovely bird. Great shots of the eggs.

Chris Rohrer said...

Love the work that goes into the nest boxes. Glad everyone is having a good year. I wish them well. It's also fun to say "Willow Warbler":) Even though the birds don't say it, I will. Thank you for keeping an eye or two on them.

Marie C said...

Wonderful information on the pied flycatcher! Loved the view inside the nest also, and your photos. Great post!

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