Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Well Spotted

The deluge stopped around mid day, and the way it had been raining the sailing ship ( the Queen Galadriel) from yesterday could well have been going round taking the animals on board two by two. As far as I could see there had been no big arrival of migrants and even the passage of swallows and martins was quite feeble.

A few and, compared to recently, a very few Chiffchaffs still called out their signature "hweet" call and a male Blackcap flew along the hedge. The sight of a small bird darting up wards and landing back in the apple tree along the Droveway gave some hope. A flycatcher on Oct 6th could be something special.

Having met Malcolm McVail along the Droveway we waited patiently for the bird to reappear, and of course when it did it was a Spotted Flycatcher. It is already quite late in the autumn for a Spotted Flycatcher to still be around, sometimes in past years they have been seen well into October, but according to the last KBR in that year (2007) there were only three October records in Kent, the last being on Oct 3rd.

It doesn't seem that long ago that this active little bird was a prominent summer visitor. When I first worked in Euston Road in about 1988 there was still a pair nesting in St Pancras Church garden, and at least one in Kensington Gardens. Now they are quite scarce. In 2007 only 14 pairs were reported breeding in Kent. In the UK numbers have declined by about 70% in the last 20 years. In Europe the decline has been by 56% between 1980 and 2002. As with the decline of so many of our summer visitors the reasons are complex. The drought in Africa, the unremitting intensification of agriculture and even the decline in leafy suburban gardens, all play their part. So I made the most of watching this skillful hunter as it picked of the flies around the trees with it's customary expertise and sharp snap of the beak, and hoped that there would be more back next year.

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