It was while watching the new series of the BBC’s Springwatch (which is turning out to be one of the best yet in my opinion), that I had the dawning realisation that I was rapidly running out of time to go and watch Pied Flycatchers at their best. These summer visitors are at their most accommodating when they are busy feeding young in the nest, whether than be a natural nest site or one in a man-made box (the latter seems remarkably popular). I have a couple of favourite sites that offer the perfect combination of a decent numbers of birds, a nice walk and stunning scenery and they were exactly where we headed yesterday.
The first of these is the RSPB Dinas reserve near Llandovery, which regular readers will have seen me visit on a number of occasions over the last couple of years. Yesterday even my high expectations for this locality were exceeded as within a minute of leaving the car we had already seen our first male Pied Flycatcher as well as a red flash from the rapidly retreating rump of a female Redstart. This was a pattern that was to be repeated throughout our time there, with seemingly every turn revealing another pair of Flycatchers busy attending a nest or a couple of Redstarts (including the stunning males) flitting through the trees. In all we saw at least seven pairs of Pied Flycatchers and six pairs of Redstarts, though numbers were hard to gauge accurately. We were also fortunate to see recent fledglings of both species being fed by parents, so it looks like we timed things just about perfectly. The highlight was probably watching a pair of Pied Flycatchers near the start of the walk who had chosen a nest box right next to the path and who were popping in with food for the noisy youngsters inside every couple of minutes. We stood and watched them happily go about their business for a good while and as a result can certainly vouch for the quantity of insects that were in the air, most of which thankfully didn’t have too much of a taste for humans.
Unfortunately my best efforts at photographing the pair resulted in nothing more than a few grainy shots, the inevitable outcome of a very shady woodland. Fortunately we have another excellent spot for Flycatchers a few miles further north on the steep sides of the Elan Valley. Here we were once again tripping over ourselves with nesting pairs, and I just about managed to get a couple of photos before we lost the lighting for the day. The male is the black and white bird whilst the female is the duller brown one.
Both locations gave us other great sightings when we weren’t focusing on the Pied Flycatchers. At the Dinas reserve a family of five Spotted Flycatchers was also present, a first for me at this location and a bird that made a couple of visitors very happy when we pointed them out. There were also several family parties of Nuthatch, Great Tit and Blue Tit, as well as a couple of very vocal Wood Warblers and even a Garden Warbler that seemed to be in the process of building a nest.
Back at the Elan Valley Redstarts and Wood Warblers were also present though in lower numbers, but we did see a pair of Redpoll with a recent fledgling, a Treecreeper and what may have been a roosting Tawny Owl in a nest-box. The light wasn’t quite good enough to see into the boxes shadows to say for certain but there was definitely a shape in there. We saw a pair of well developed checks in the same box two years ago, a photo of which can be seen in this post, so the possibility of it being an Owl are high. We’ll have to make a return visit in a couple of weeks to see if the box is indeed being used again.