Tuesday, 12 August 2008
PIED FLYCATCHERS forced down by rain
TUESDAY 12 AUGUST
The undoubted highlight was the discovery of 3 PIED FLYCATCHERS - the first record for the area (127).
A torrential shower lasting half an hour or more instigated a 'mini fall' of passerines and hirundines at Shardeloes Lake late afternoon, including many warblers and flycatchers. Pride of place went to 3 juvenile PIED FLYCATCHERS. As I approached the far west end of the lake, I heard a familiar call - a persistently, repeated, short metallic (and rather sharp) 'wit'. A bird darted out of the lakeside bushes and flew to the Willows at the back of the pool and had obvious white in the wing and tail. I raised my bins and was amazed to see a PIED FLYCATCHER on an exposed perch. It was rather creamy-yellow on the upper breast, whiter below and on the chin and throat, unstreaked and rather brownish on the upperparts. It sat there for several minutes and was seen to have two faint whitish wing-bars and a broad area of white on the tertials. It was also very black and white in the tail. It was still very anxious, calling loudly and opening and shutting its wings repeatedly.
As I panned around the bushes adjacent, I realised that the Willows and other bushes were full of birds and over the next 15 minutes or more, some 11 or more SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were darting in and out of the bushes and a further juvenile PIED FLYCATCHER. I immediately telephoned RBA of my find (at 1710) and also contacted MC, RDA, DC, and other local birders I knew that would be interested, as well as BKM and SN. Both birds darted in and out of the bushes throughout a period of lighter rain, commuting between three Willows on the side of the lake and the main block of vegetation at the west end of the lake. At 1725 hours, a third PIED FLYCATCHER came into view, with all three birds perched above each other on some bare twigs protruding from the upper parts of the bushes. From thenon, one or other was in view for the next 20 minutes before the sunshine came out, and all of the flycatchers then dispersed widely. The loud 'pink pink' call could still be heard from the vegetation for some while thereafter, as well as the distinctive clicking call, and at least one bird travelled along the hedgerow towards the cricket pitch. Although one juvenile was still on view when Mike and Rose Collard finally arrived, the weather soon deteriorated, and heavy (occasionally torrential) rain once more set in. I last heard the calls at 1748 and it seems likely the birds moved on (as is very often the case with inland ficedulas). [Interestingly, 2 Pied Flycatchers were at Abney Park Cemetery in Central London 1345-1400 hours today indicating a marked overland movement].
All three individuals were very similarly plumaged, with the greater coverts obviously white-tipped. All were very fresh-plumaged, with a wash of yellowish-buff across the upper breast. I believe that they were all juveniles.
Associating with the flycatchers were at least 7 juvenile WILLOW WARBLERS, 15 Common Chiffchaffs, several Blackcaps and 3 LESSER WHITETHROATS (all on passage) whilst the rain also saw the arrival of 19 COMMON SWIFTS, 37 House Martins and 3 Barn Swallows.
Otherwise, 5 Great Crested Grebes were counted (2 adults and just three juveniles - an adult and juvenile were missing), all 6 Mute Swans (family party), 3 GADWALLS (2 drakes and a female), a female Tufted Duck, 2 Common Kestrels, Common Buzzard (worn adult) and COMMON KINGFISHER.
Two Mistle Thrushes and 9 Pied Wagtails (including 4 adult males) were feeding on the cricket pitch, whilst a female BULLFINCH flying overhead was the first in the entire area all year.