Finding three pairs of Pied Flycatcher (PF) and possibly two other singing males at Barbondale on Thursday 12 May has prompted me to do a few brief notes on the species, though I'D SOONER BE BIRDING but won't be whilst this weather continues, just not practical to do so I'm afraid, not my kind anyway. The photographs are credited to Brian Rafferty with my thanks.
The PF winters in the regions of West Africa between the Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea. In the breeding season in Britain populations are concentrated in areas where Sessile Oak is a dominant tree - though not entirely so - and sometimes in association with Birches, Alder, and Rowan. Breeding densities may be determined by the availability of nest holes, but a feature of the PF today is its readiness to take to artificial nest boxes in which it breeds very productively, which in turn makes the species a good subject for studies which includes large numbers of nestlings ringed on an annual basis.
The PF is a purely migrant visitor to Britain in the summer and dispersal from breeding areas is usually in July and there are no records of birds seen after the end of October. In Britain populations of PF are at present at an unnatural high level because of the provision of nest boxes and long may that situation continue as it is first and foremost to the benefit of the birds, but also to the benefit of those who study them. However, the PF's future well-being is critically dependant upon the conservation of their woodland habitat. I've recently discovered some Beech trees having been taken out in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to where live, hopefully and presumably for good reason, but you do have to wonder whether or not some of these exercises are purely for 'tidying up' purposes in which case this would be yet another habitat area lost to the birds for no good reason.
But the PF has a much more natural problem in that some suggestions are that the species has adopted - and probably not alone in this - to warmer springs and there are signs of advanced breeding dates which brings about the problem of being out of sync with the peak emergence of their insect food source. You just have to ponder what the future holds for birds - and wildlife in general - in a climate changing/habitat destruction/development world of the 21st century.