There’s a local birdwatcher I follow on Twitter who always makes the most amazing sightings and I read his tweets – 6/8 ‘Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Garden Warblers, 40 Willow Warblers and 2 Tree Pipits’ and 8/8 ‘Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Spot Fly, Redstart, 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 25 Willow Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler’ – with great envy. These particular sightings were all at Cosmeston, one of my local country parks, so I decided to go looking for myself.
Warblers can be difficult to identify but I’d never seen a Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) so I made that my target. And it took me three visits and many many photographs of Chiffchaffs before I finally found them, by chance, not in the area where they’d been reported to be.
There were two birds and they were unmistakable as they were doing exactly what their name suggests, catching flies. From a perch in trees, they sat scanning the surrounding air space, then flying out quickly to grab their prey before returning to their perch to scoff it. Spotted flycatchers are migrants, arriving in Britain in April-May and then leaving again in September. It may be that these two birds were stocking up on food before heading off on their long journey to spend the winter in Africa. Intrigued? There’s an excellent article by the British Trust for Ornithology here.