When garden wildlife gives you those heart-in-mouth moments

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When garden wildlife gives you those heart-in-mouth moments

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Glancing out of the kitchen window yesterday, I saw a little bird flick across from my Cornus tree across the pond into the apple, with a swish and a dash the pricked my interest.

On getting a better view, I found myself looking at this:

If you haven't seen one of these before, it's perhaps no surprise, because this is a fresh-from-the-nest youngster of one of our most declined breeding birds, the Spotted Flycatcher.

But many people of a certain age will recognise it, because this was once a common sight in larger (and some smaller) gardens across the country. Alas, no more!

Sadly, there are thought to be barely 33,000 or so pairs left of this summer visitor from Africa, down 88% since the late 1960s.

Why they have struggled so much just isn't known. Some suggest it could be a problem on their wintering grounds in West Africa; others say it could be an issue on their migrations routes to and from there; yet others think there may be too few flying insects to sustain them here in the woods and copses and parks they like to breed in.

This bird is so fresh and spotty that I can assume it was reared somewhere near my garden. Given that adults are barely streaked, and only then on the upper breast, it is tempting to think that the name must have originated with these freckled youngsters.

My bird was having a lovely time, even managing to catch one of my Common Darter dragonflies over the pond.

Imagine, then, my horror when it launched on a hunting flight after an insect, only to bash itself against my bedroom window. I saw it drop like a stone down to the ground many feet below.

I rushed down, heart in my mouth and found it lying on its back. I gently turned it over, and put it in the shade under a bench in the forlorn hope it was just stunned.

And there it sat for two hours, half in and out of consciousness.

But it then came to a little and clambered up a stick. And an hour later was gone.

Imagine my delight today to find a baby Spotted Flycatcher using the same branches as yesterday's bird. And even coming down to the birdbath.

I can't categorically say it is the same bird. But I like to think so. Let's hope its headache is gone and it piles on the energy ready for its long flight south.

  • For the past four years we have had Spotted flycatchers nesting in our summer house. This year they didn't return. The nesting site was undisturbed and no alterations had been made in the area. We haven't seen them in the garden so they didn't just move nesting sites.