24 May 2021

Field Notes: A cool spring

Due to the pandemic, this spring hasn't been a great time for many people and some breeding birds are struggling too, says the Trust's Glenridding Common Manager Pete Barron.

Pete Barron - Pied flycatcher eggs 2In Lakeland cuckoos arrived back more or less on time in April, but have been extraordinarily quiet with only the occasional bursts of calling. This is likely due to the cold spring - with snow on the fells twice through April. The weather drove the meadow pipits (the cuckoos' main nest source here) off the fells and back into the lower field delaying any nesting attempts until well into May.

Pete Barron - Upland oak

One of our other migrant species which we monitor closely in the valley oak woodlands, is the pied flycatcher. The male is a beautiful black and white bird and the female a more discrete soft brown hue. At the time of writing the flycatchers are anywhere between just pairing up and nest making; through to looking after a full clutch of eight wonderful blue eggs. We need warmer weather to arrive soon to encourage the caterpillars to emerge in the local upland oak woods to provide food for the newly hatched flycatchers. Fingers crossed that it works out, as the numbers of this species encountered this year is excellent.

Pete Barron - Pied flycatcher nesting

An example of the good numbers can be found in a local wood where 15 recently erected nest boxes immediately attracted eight nesting pied flycatchers. This success is partly due to the structure of the woodland which is even aged and with little supply of old wood and holes for nesting. However, potentially its oak trees are a good food resource. The success of the nest boxes is excellent news because this species tends to return to its natal area. This bodes well for future years - if they manage to hatch and fledge in current conditions of course.

The birds will be ringed, under license, enabling future population monitoring of this long distance traveller.

Photographs of pied flycatchers nesting, their eggs and upland oak by Pete Barron.

Fruit blossom

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