Quantock Hills Blog

Monitoring Pied Flycatchers

- AONB Rangers prepare bird boxes for the arrival of the migratory pied flycatcher

Andy Harris

Posted by Andy Harris on 08 March 2011

Monitoring Pied Flycatchers After just a few beautiful spring mornings, we can now be sure that spring is finally here. I am writing this warming up in the office having checked on our Exmoor Ponies this morning.  Signs of spring are now all around us with snowdrops in flower, resident birds beginning to sing as dawn breaks and Tawny Owl declaring their territories at the end of the day.

February 14th was National Nest Box week and it is traditional that we clean out our nest boxes in readiness for the arrival of the migratory pied flycatcher in April.  The AONB Service has been involved in monitoring the fortunes of pied flycatcher populations within the sessile oak woods since the late 1970’s.  Each year chicks of all species using the boxes have a numerically unique ring put around their leg (this doesn’t cause any stress to the bird) supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology enabling us to monitor their number of chicks that hatch as well as identifying individuals should they be recovered at a later date.  Over the past three decades 2533 pied flycatcher chicks have been rung in our woods and we know (via the BTO ring) some have returned to breed here on the Quantocks but a least one turned up in a wood in Herefordshire.  Through the work we have done with the BTO monitoring the boxes we have contributed to over 13% of all pied flycatcher rung in the UK.

This year we hope to increase our monitoring of pied flycatchers by observing the entire breeding season from nest building to fledging dates as part of a regional study looking into the possible affects that climate change is having on the species, keep you posted.

However despite all this monitoring we do, for me I never lose the sense of awe when I remember the chick in my hand that weighs only a few grams returns to West Africa for the winter and has the potential of doing this trip back and forth for nine years totalling 55,000 miles in a life time.

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