Two pairs of rare Pied Flycatchers, which are on the ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’ red list, are successfully breeding at Lydford Gorge in Devon, thanks to work done by rangers at National Trust.
They are further thrilled to have discovered that one pair of the birds, who were born in different parts of Devon, have paired up and are now busy raising their young at Lydford Gorge on Dartmoor.
The Devon pair of birds were ringed in 2014 and the National Trust has been able to discover that the male was born near Widecombe-on-the-Moor and the female hails from South Molton. As Pied Flycatchers migrate thousands of miles during the winter before returning to the UK to mate in the spring, it’s not known how or when they paired up, however the Trust is very pleased to see these endangered birds doing well after careful work to attract them to the area has worked.
The baby birds will start to be seen taking their first forays outside the nest in June, however keen bird spotters can come and look out for the birds at Lydford Gorge, who are expected to stay there until late August when they fly south again to the African continent.
A third male, who was recently spotted searching for a mate, has also recently found a female and it’s hoped they may nest there too.
Their new homes
In 2017, National Trust rangers and volunteers created specialised bird boxes to encourage the birds to nest in the gorge, which is rich in mature woodland consisting of a mix of sessile oak, beech, ash and hazel, that the Pied Flycatchers prefer.
Following confirmation that they were nesting successfully, rangers worked to apply a technique proven to increase the likelihood of Pied Flycatchers adopting the boxes. This involved placing a trio of the specialised bird boxes in close proximity to each other, often this trio of boxes are occupied by a pair of Blue Tits in one, a pair of Great Tits in the other and Pied Flycatchers in the third.
This technique was introduced to the gorge in 2018, and has helped to encourage three pairs of Pied Flycatchers to make their home there.
Males often return to the same area of woodland each year, so it’s hoped their chicks, who have now also been ringed, will return to Lydford Gorge next spring after making their journey to Africa over the winter.
The birds arrival was registered with the Pied Flycatcher Network in 2018, meaning the data created at Lydford will be added to statistics about Pied Flycatchers stretching back to the 1950s and will help understanding of the birds.
“We’re really excited”
Demelza Hyde, National Trust Ranger said, “We’re really excited to see the Pied Flycatchers nesting in our boxes at the gorge and the numbers of breeding pairs increasing. We’re hoping to ring the third pair so we can track them and see if they return here next year.”
Antony ‘AJ’ Bellamy, Area Ranger for South East Dartmoor, said, “It has been great to work with the Lydford ranger team over the last two years to set up this new monitoring site for the Pied Flycatcher Network. I’m a licenced bird ringer for British Trust Ornithology, which means we monitor the nesting dates of all the birds breeding in the boxes at Lydford. This information is entered into a valuable national dataset with the network and helps us study how birds are reacting to climate change across the UK.”
Adrian Shaw, Area Ranger at Lydford Gorge said, “We were really pleased to have at least two pairs flying around the gorge and breeding here. We saw a third male looking for a mate and thankfully a third female arrived recently too, so we’re crossing our fingers that they might nest together before the breeding season is over.”
For more information about Lydford Gorge visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/lydford-gorge
Featured image is a Male adult Pied Flycatcher and fledgling on branch, credit: Andy Brown