The Pied Flycatchers of Haweswater

Spring has sprung in RSPB Haweswater’s Naddle Forest. The Birch and Alder trees have burst their vibrant green leaves, contrasting against the grey branches of the Ash trees. The woodlands are full of birdsong, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wren, welcome the dawn sun, as Red Squirrel scamper between the mossy dry stone walls.

Male Pied Flycatcher singing by nest site.

At this time of year, the residents of Haweswater are joined by a whole new cast of songsters, Willow Warblers bring their descending song, likened to the magical phrase “fairy waterfalls”, Redstarts tek, and chat, the males fiery plumage contrasting against the vivid spring greens, and the jewel of Naddle, the Pied Flycatcher advertises it’s territory with its gentle short song.

This year, the woods are filled with Pied Flycatchers, once you get your ear into their song, you can find them around every corner. What seems like every nook and cranny, old woodpecker hole, a male sings nearby. In recent years the population of Pied Flycatchers has decreased, and it’s now on the UK’s Red list, so it’s great to hear/see throughout the woods this year.

Male Pied Flycatcher photographed from Pied Flycatcher Hide.

These little birds spend their winters in sub-Saharan Africa, in the scrubby woodlands of Guinea and Liberia. Weighing in at only 13g’s, their exact migrations, and wintering grounds are still relatively unknown, but each April, usually in the first two weeks, the males arrived back to Haweswater’s temperate rainforests.

Over the past two springs we’ve been developing a new wildlife photography hide at RSPB Haweswater, to photograph these dapper migrants. After countless hours reading scientific papers, time in the field, and a little sprinkling of luck, we’ve developed an opportunity to photograph Pied Flycatchers, up close, with very little disturbance.

There’s currently two females incubating 6-7 eggs, in a just under two weeks the eggs will hopefully hatch. The adults will spend the next two weeks frantically feeding the young before they fledge, and begin their journey to Western Africa for the winter.

Pair of Pied Flycatchers, the male feeding the female. Photographed at Pied Flycatcher Hide.

Our Pied Flycatcher Photography Hides are now open for bookings, there’s only a very limited number of dates available for 2021, you can find out more here. Every ticket sold will contribute to the conservation of Haweswater.

– Cain

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