Birdwatch: No place like home for summer visitor that always returns

The introduction of more nest boxes has seen the pied flycatcher spread to many woodlands in Yorkshire.
The introduction of more nest boxes has seen the pied flycatcher spread to many woodlands in Yorkshire.
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A bird that relies on us a great deal for its housing needs is the pied flycatcher.

It is estimated that at least half of the British population of this delightful summer visitor nest in boxes instead of natural tree holes.

The males are now back around the nest boxes, each singing a short, sweet little warble as he tries to lure a female inside. Once he does so he will only defend a small territory around the box which allows a number of pairs to live close to each other.

In spring the male is completely black above and shining white below and with conspicuous white wing bars. The female is brown where the male is black and also has wing bars.

Once a pair has finished nesting the male turns brown too but before this happens he sometimes finds another mate and establishes a new territory a little way away from the first.

When this second female has built a nest and laid her eggs he goes back to his first mate and leaves her to bring up this brood on her own.

At one time pied flycatchers were largely confined to the hillside oak woods of North Wales and Cumbria but from the 1970s onwards, as more nest boxes were put up, they expanded into other areas including a number of Yorkshire woodlands.

Probably the best known are the Strid Woods at Bolton Abbey where, as well as pied flycatchers, there are spotted flycatchers, redstarts and the increasingly uncommon wood warbler.

Good numbers of pied flycatcher nestlings are ringed each year and, from recoveries of these it has been possible to work out in some detail that, after leaving here in August and September, they migrate through France, western Iberia, Morocco and onwards into West Africa.

It has also been established that male pied flycatchers are very site faithful, returning each year to the same nest box or one very close by.

Females often do the same but are more likely to turn up at a completely different site while the recapture of birds ringed as nestlings show a much wider dispersal - one ringed in Yorkshire was found the following summer in a Dutch nest box.

The first little terns are back at breeding sites on the Holderness coast while more Arctic terns were moving through the region and black terns were seen at Paull Holme Strays on the Humber and Easington.

Other returning migrants included turtle doves in Staintondale, North Yorkshire and at Wadworth, South Yorkshire.

A rough-legged buzzard was seen over Filey, Flamborough, Sewerby and Spurn before moving to Lincolnshire while at Flamborough a hoopoe was visiting gardens on Lighthouse Road this week. A wryneck was seen at Rawcliffe, East Yorkshire.

A female Montagu’s harrier has returned to the Blacktoft Sands reserve for a third successive year and a female black redstart was showing well at the end of the car park of the Huntsman pub in Meltham, West Yorkshire.