Spotted Flycatcher in Dorset: What your tweets tell us ...
It is not that long ago that the spotted flycatcher was a familiar sight during the summer months in rural gardens across Dorset where they would happily nest but sadly this is no longer the case. This charming little bird has declined dramatically in numbers in the last 20 years or so and is now quite scarce both here in Dorset and across the country as a whole. I am not sure the reasons for the steep decline are fully understood but increased use of garden pesticides and changes in the way we use gardens is considered one possible factor.
The spotted flycatcher is a summer visitor to Britain migrating here from Africa to breed before returning back south in the autumn. The weekly chart shows that they start to return from week 16 in early May and are all gone by week 40 at the end of September. There are more reports, of course, during migration periods when the number of these birds will be greatest. The main spring peak runs from week 17 through to week 21 but numbers at this time seem to be generally lower than the autumn peak between week 34 and week 37. As with many migrant species there are probably three reasons for this; arrivals tend to be sporadic individuals whereas clusters of birds will leave at the same time. In autumn the numbers of birds will be swollen by youngsters on the move along with their parents and, finally, in autumn they will tend to spend some time here feeding before setting out across the channel.
The distribution map shows how widely spread reports are; coastal sites feature well but there are many inland sites where they have been recorded and this, too, reflects the migratory nature of the species in Dorset.
It is difficult to predict with any certainty where to see spotted flycatcher, you just need to keep your eyes open in September in scrubby or sparsely wooded areas for small birds sitting on a branch occasionally flying up and then returning to the same perch.
This is just my nature note: for lots more information including distribution maps, status charts, identification guidance and more photographs go to the species home page by clicking/tapping the icon