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Pied Flycatcher

Food Chain

I love birds, but the more I learn about the natural world, the more i’m fascinated by the smaller things in life. Despite popular believe, it all starts from the bottom up, without the bugs, nothing else would exist.
A little example of which I found inadvertently while observing Pied Flycatchers and their chosen food prey items. This male Pied was bringing back all sorts of prices for his female who is currently incubating a clutch of eggs. He’s been pretty good so far, though only bringing in single items, which doesn’t seem to go down very well with the female, but it does allow me to ID the bugs. They were mostly catching beetles but also some species of Sawfly, which I believe to be an Oak Sawfly. A quick look under the oak leaves and I did find some Oak Sawfly larvae to confirm their presence. Ancient broadleaf woodland is such an important habitat and one oak tree alone can support thousands of species.

I’ve included some pictures of Spiders of which I know some of my facebook friends have turned their eyes away from. I get that not everyone will come to love spiders but I hope to show them in a different light through my photography. The Zebra spider is quite commonly found on homes and gardens and my home is no exception. This little guy was only 2-3mm long as it’s this years hatchling. I see them mostly on warm days but after a couple of showers, this zebra was sporting a brilliant water droplet hat.

I skipped past the Pied Flycatchers without giving them the attention they deserve. I have to thank Richard Evans at Project Nestbox for introducing me to these birds some years ago. I haven’t gone a single year since without going out of my way to see and hear these birds. Once you do so, it’s hard to imagine a woodland without them. Sadly, that is becoming a reality for many historic breeding sites across wales but thanks to the help of people like Richard, these nest box schemes do help increase remote populations.

Pied Flycatchers

Returning in 'decent' numbers so far this year are our locally scarce Pied Flycatchers, with only a hand full of breeding pairs left in Gwent. I typically pick them up on spring /  winter passage at places like Llandegfedd Reservoir, along rivers, canals and streams. Water does seem to attract them, most likely due to the large hatches of flies and insects also attracted to water. They aren't always associated with water though with some taking to woodland surrounding farmland - lots of cattle, lots of flies, therefor a good substitute. Most importantly for Pied Flycatchers however are our broadleaf woodland, preferably ancient woodland as they need generations of woodpecker holes and naturally formed holes in trees for which they like to nest in. Ancient woodland should be a continuing, never ending life cycle that should always be there, forever having tree's slightly younger to grow old and take their place, continuing to provide for nature and the planet. I see birds like Pied Flycatchers as indicators of a healthy woodland and there is much we could learn about our broadleaf woodland, just by studying Pied Flycatcher distributions. 

Male Pied Flycatcher, still waiting for a female 

Male Pied Flycatcher, still waiting for a female 

Brecon & Monmouthshire Canal

This time of year you can expect to see a lot more Kingfishers in our waterways, this is because most (if successful) would have finished their first brood of chicks and will hopefully be starting a second. This provides us with the great opportunity to see the youngsters spread out into areas you simply wouldn't otherwise see them in. Local ponds, canals, rivers and lakes will likely have a few Kingfishers around so keep your eyes pealed for that orange and blue flash that flies straight as an arrow and very fast wing beats. 

This is the closest I've ever been to a Kingfisher and despite seeing many before, there is nothing like getting up close and seeing all the subtle movements and poses they take when on the perch fishing. I've just about worked out the best time to photograph them so will hopefully get some more pictures to share with you. 

Some other notable species from local patch were the many Toadlets hopping along the path and grassland. Quite a few Green Orb-Weever Spiders in the meadows and a surprised Pied Flycatcher that was looking a little worse for wear. Possible malting feathers or this years youngster finally reaching adult plumage. 

Pied Flycatcher Male (Possibly Juvi or Malt)

Sunset @ Newport Wetlands

So many images to post up but not enough time! Here's a few from this evenings short visit after work to Newport Wetlands. Was nice to see a Male Marsh Harrier hunting the reed beds around the lighthouse and today I also saw my first Otter and Magor Marsh. Female Pied Flycatcher was taken yesterday just off the Canal in Goytre- 1 of many more to come this year I hope! 

Spring Migrants

Only a short walk today but lots to see! Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Whinchat have all arrived back on their breeding grounds and I'm looking forward to spending a bit more time with these. 
Wood Warbler was also heard today and thats another bird on my sound recording list. These pictures were from today but all heavily cropped so put them in one photo. 

I explored a new woodland today called Priory Wood which ended up being a lovely walk. Not much to report from there species wise but was greeted by a lovely bellowing Blackcap which I managed to record below.