3 Sept 2014

3 Sep 14 - Flycatcher Fun In The Churchyard

Back in the Spring, I put a post together about one of Dorset's most impressive soldiers, Sergeant William Lawrence, who fought through the whole of the Peninsula War & continued to survive his final battle at Waterloo, before returning to Dorset & running a pub in Studland. I finished the post, pointing out that the churchyard can be a migrant trap on the right day & Spotted Flycatchers are one of the more interesting regular species that occur. Well today, it proved to be the best part of a visit to Old Harry, which always starts in Studland village. Overall, Old Harry was fairly quiet today, with a scattering of typical migrant Warblers (Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers & Chiffchaffs) and a couple of Redstarts. Scarcest bird was a Reed Warbler: an erratic migrant here. 5 Clouded Yellows were the best of the bunch on the Butterfly side.
Clouded Yellow: Colour overload with the mainly unripened Blackberries
Having got back to the Studland car park, there was time for another quick look in the churchyard. It had been pretty quiet on the early morning visit, but it's not unusual for Flycatchers, & later in the year Black Redstarts, to arrive later in the morning. Guess they are either drifted off the Ballard Down/Old Harry headland having arrived that morning or dropping in whilst on Visible Migration. The church lies on the Vis Mig route which runs from the Poole Harbour mouth, to Studland & Durlston (or the reverse direction depending on which way Birds are moving). So I wasn't too surprised when I saw a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, which quickly increased to at least 4 after a bit more looking.
Spotted Flycatcher: The first greeted me on the church fence
I settled down to try & get some better photos of the Spotted Flycatchers as the sun was pleasantly warm & it was easily the best day for a couple of weeks.
Spotted Flycatcher: Note, the streaky breast & crown
Spotted Flycatcher: A typical date right in the middle of their main migration period through Studland
Spotted Flycatcher: Note, the narrow pale edges to the tertials and the pale tips to the greater & median coverts which form the 2 narrow wing bars. Also note, how long the wings are. They are quite obvious in flight, due to the wing length
Spotted Flycatcher: Just spotted another meal
Finally, I was pleased to see the Spotted Flycatchers were joined by a Pied Flycatcher. This was working a different patch of trees from the Spotted Flycatchers, but was sometimes coming into the trees, where the Spotted Flycatchers were feeding. It's only my 7th Pied Flycatcher for the Studland/Ballard patch. But the third in the churchyard & with one is the adjacent field next to the hotel, it's clearly the best local place to find them. It's perhaps not surprisingly they are less common in the Studland area, as most of the local Pied Flycatchers seem to end up on the Jurassic coast from Durlston to Winspit/St Aldhelms. It would help if I chose a patch with a South facing coastline, but then the whole point of patch Birding is to have your own patch, as well as making it harder for yourself. But overall the Studland/Ballard patch does get the highest patch species list locally, with my personal best year list of  177 in 2009. So I can't complain too much.
Pied Flycatcher: They are slightly smaller & more compact than Spotted Flycatchers, with unstreaked breasts & crowns
Pied Flycatcher:Note, the broad white edges to the tertials, the darker, unstreaked chocolate upperparts & stronger white greater coverts wing bar and just a hint of a median coverts wing bar
Looking at the photos, I think I should be able to get better photos, so there is a good excuse to try again.