Spotted Flycatcher – Alderhill Inclosure, New Forest

Spotted Flycatcher can be a tricky bird to catch up with and so I thought I would make the effort now that a good number of the birds would have arrived from Africa. They are a late migrant and often one of the last summer visitors to arrive in the UK.

There had been a few reports from various parts of Hampshire and the nearest to me appeared to be Amberwood Inclosure in the New Forest. I parked near the Royal Oak at Fritham and began to walk west. There were no detailed directions with the Amberwood report and so I thought I would look for clearings on the edge of deciduous woodland. On the walk I had great views of a gorgeous male Redstart shaking is tail feathers and wings at me and lots of Tree Pipits were singing and a pair of Hawfinches flew across the path in front of me.

I got to the western edge of the inclosure and turned south. I could see another clearing on google maps which was actually on the northern edge of Alderhill Inclosure and so I headed there. I wasn’t particularly hopeful as I dropped down the slope toward several oak trees. However, a pale medium sized bird flew up into the tree, it was a Spotted Flycatcher! Over the next 45 minutes I had good views, every 10 minutes or so, with the flycatcher often returning to the same perches and with practice I was able to get it in the telescope to help with sketches.

There was obvious streaking on the head and the breast. The long primaries and tail were noticeable and the bird often held itself with an upright posture. They are often vocal birds calling and singing most of the time and so it quickly became apparant when the bird had moved away and this early in the season it appeared to be moving around a fair deal. The song and call isn’t particularly striking or memorable but it appeared to be a slow and well-spaced ‘zer – see – chu’.

The Spotted Flycatcher has become a species of great conservation concern in Europe and the UK following a period of prolonged and accelerating decline. Breeding Bird Survey data show a staggering longer term decline of 87% since 1970. Once considered a common garden nesting species, the Spotted Flycatcher is now a bird that many people are willing to make a real effort to see and its rapid decline has placed it on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern. 

Surveys suggest that more Spotted Flycatchers are dying during the first year of their lives and that this increased mortality is likely to be behind the population decline. More research is required to identify their wintering grounds and the areas that the birds use as stop-over sites en route. From this it may be possible to discover how events at different stages of the birds annual cycle could be impacting on their population.

A lovely encounter which take my year list to 213.

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