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The return of Pied Flycatchers

Before I had ever visited Wild Haweswater, I had only ever seen a Pied Flycatcher once before. It was at quite a distance and was more of an educated guess, due to the classic flycatching behaviour and it being within the correct habitat for a flycatcher to be present. 

Last year, I started guiding for Wild Intrigue, and was lucky enough to be able to sit in one of our Pied Flycatcher Photography Hides at Wild Haweswater in the Lake District. I never imagined that I would have the possibility to witness this species at such a close proximity, and for such extended periods of time.

This unparalleled experience with such a remarkable species really left me wanting more, and sparked a deep fondness for this species, largely because of its unmistakable plumage and behavioural traits. I was incredibly excited for the return of the Flycatchers this year. 

I had spent some time learning the songs and calls, as well as exploring the areas I had seen the birds previously, but with no luck. However, my excitement returned on 12th April, when Cain reported that the first Pied Flycatcher had returned to Wild Haweswater!

So I spent more time exploring, even if it was for just a glimpse of the unmistakable black and white flash, busily chasing insects through the canopy. Finally, on 15th April, I was lucky enough to hear a whisper of the call I had been learning, and with some help from the Merlin app, I was able to confirm and locate a male Pied Flycatcher in the trees around an area where they often nest.

In 2022 I had missed the nest building phase, where individuals carefully inspect nest boxes, so this has been one of the aspects I’ve enjoyed watching progress this year, as well as the potential to witness fledglings around the nest areas as they interact with adults.

On 21st April it was apparent that the return migration had really started as we had at least two established pairs scouting out next boxes, whilst other males sang seeking potential mates. These songs were almost drowned out by the calls of other key spring and summer visitors such as Redstarts, Cuckoos and Willow Warblers.

By managing our Pied Flycatcher Photography Hides, we’re able to contribute to the BTO Nest Record Scheme. There are currently two Pied Flycatcher nests in our hide area, with 5 eggs between them, which will most likely increase over the next few days as the average clutch size is around 6-7 eggs.

Our Pied Flycatcher Photography Hides are now open for bookings for the 2023 season. There are only a very limited number of dates available between 25th May – 13th June, to coincide with chicks hatching, with excellent opportunities to photograph natural food being brought in by adults. Every booking contributes to conservation and restoration of nature at Wild Haweswater.

– Matthew, Wild Intrigue Wild Hides Ranger

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