Photo: Steve Round (http://stevenround-birdphotography.com)
The Spotted Flycatcher, an attractive summer visitor, is the subject of a BTO-registered study by Norfolk ringers which commenced in 2003. The population of this delightful species in the UK declined by 78% between 1972 and 1996. It is therefore a species of high conservation concern, and is listed as a red data species. It nests in scattered locations across Norfolk, and there are probably no more than 600 breeding pairs in the county.
The aims of this study are to determine the preferred habitat and site fidelity of the Spotted Flycatcher in Norfolk, and to monitor their breeding success and overwinter survival. In 2003 and 2004, we invited members of the public to report sightings of nesting flycatchers to us, and made arrangements to ring the nestlings. In all, 22 pairs of flycatchers were monitored and 54 nestlings were ringed in 2003, and 29 pairs and 20 nestlings in 2004, a less successful nesting season. In 2005 our aim is both to determine whether or not 2003/2004's nestlings will return to their natal sites, and also to expand the study to include new sites. In order to collect more information in 2004, we are hoping that both birdwatchers and non-birdwatchers (whether they participated in 2003 or not) will report any breeding pairs that they come across.
We also complete a "Nest Record Card" for the British Trust for Ornithology for each nest. This contributes valuable information to a national database used for analysis of breeding biology. If sufficient data is collected, we would be able to determine whether changes in breeding success are contributing to the population decline, and, if birds prove to be site-faithful, whether over-winter survival is declining. If the owner of the land on which they are nesting is happy for us to do so, we shall arrange for a local bird ringer to visit the site to ring the nestlings with a colour ring and a metal BTO ring. In this way it will be possible to monitor if the same birds return to the site in a subsequent summer. Birds will only be ringed if the landowners give their consent.
If you find a Spotted Flycatcher nesting in Norfolk, or the birds appear to have set up territory in your area, please email the project organiser, Rachel Warren at email@example.com. She will email you a form which you can fill in and return at the end of the nesting season. This will enable her to complete a "Nest Record Card" for the BTO. Please also let Rachel know if you are happy for the nestlings on your land to be ringed. She will then provide an opportunity for a local ringer to visit you. (If you are a qualified ringer with a pulli endorsement, please contact Rachel to request a few of this year's yellow colour rings and a ringers' form.)
If you would like to help with project but have no flycatchers nesting close by, you can volunteer to help monitor the sites so that nest record cards can be completed, mainly to determine hatching and fledging success or failure, and to look for colour ringed birds from the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Please contact Rachel to volunteer.