Piper the Pied Flycatcher

  • Hey, you! Down there! You, the little black and white bird, darting in and out of the trees.

  • Who me?

  • It’s OK, don’t look so startled, I only wanted to say hallo. What are you, a sort of mini-magpie?

  • Certainly not! I’m a pied flycatcher, name of Piper. And you?

  • Buzz the Buzzard at your service. You’re new round here, aren’t you, Piper.

  • That’s right, I’ve only just flown here from Africa.

  • Africa? Where’s that to? Further than Bridgwater?

  • I should say so. 4,000 miles. And I do the round trip every year. It’s called migrating.

  • That’s very impressive for such a little bird! I couldn’t do it, even if I wanted to, which I don’t. I’m perfectly happy to stay around the Quantocks all year round. It’s my territory, you know. So what makes you go to all that effort?

  • Habit, I suppose. It’s what my parents did and my grandparents too. It gets too cold here in England. And the food runs out in winter.

  • What do you eat, Piper?

  • Flying insects, caterpillars. There aren’t too many of them here in the winter, when the trees are bare.

  • Flies! Not very appetising! Ever tried mice?

  • No thanks! Anyway, the Quantocks are ideal in the summer, for flycatchers, warblers and the like. Plenty of insects, loads of caterpillars. You’ll see lots of us, foraging amongst the trees.

  • And hear you too. You make a lot of noise for a little guy.

  • Yes, nothing better than having a good sing, perched on a tree stump. It lets the other flycatchers know this is my patch!

  • So you’re territorial as well?

  • Oh yes, once we’ve found a good nesting spot, a hole in a tree or one of those lovely purpose-built nest-boxes.

  • Lucky you! Preferential treatment! Do you get to choose your own colour-scheme as well?

  • Don’t be jealous. It’s only because we used to be very rare, so the Quantock Rangers are encouraging us to live here again. See this ring on my leg?

  • I was wondering about that. A souvenir from Africa?

  • No, some orni… orni…. , oh, people who study birds, fixed it on me when I was only a fledgling. It’s got my own number on it and everything. It’s because I’m part of a study!

  • Oooh. A study! What does that mean? And why aren’t I part of one?

  • I think it’s so that they can find out exactly where we go when we’re migrating, and how long we live, that sort of thing.

  • Well, Piper, I’m so glad we had this chat. You may only be a scrap of a bird, compared with me, but you’ve done things and seen places I couldn’t imagine. Good luck to you, little chap!