There have been torrential storms this week and I have sad news; the spotted flycatcher’s nest has been destroyed. I hope that the chicks were able to fledge before it collapsed from the side of the tree, and I think that they have already gone because there has been no sign of either parents or young for the last few days. I am keeping my hopes up that they have survived. Following this disappointment this morning I thought it would be hard to sit for an hour and watch basically an empty glade, whereas four days ago it was filled with such activity and excitement.
I am planning to make a few open fronted nest boxes and positioning them in my sit~spot area just to give the birds a slightly more favourable chance of laying a second brood of eggs this spring, as the original nest was so very fragile (just a piece of bark that was still attached to a dead tree shown above), which makes me think that perhaps the parents were inexperienced, as I am sure the nest was getting more and more waterlogged as the storms continued – making it heavier each day and that is what finally made it collapse. I can’t really believe that these birds lay eggs in such vulnerable nests. It was so easy to spot, so open to the elements and obvious to predators and the two parents were so noisy in their initial defence of it.
So, I after I discovered the collapse, I was really disheartened to carry on and stay for an hour in my sit~spot practice. I had to remind myself that the collapse of the nest was just part of the natural process of the wood and that other things would take its place and more chicks would be fledging and making their way out into the world. I didn’t have too long to wait to see evidence of this as I heard almost immediately a continued chirr-tweet coming from the undergrowth and I was able to pick out a baby blackbird siting on top of a pile of fallen brushwood. There had been quite a lot of uneasy adult blackbird activity whilst I had been there; low fly-bys and agitated alarms going on and I realised why – the adults were defending the baby who was obviously still helpless and vulnerable.
But he was also so cute! He sat up on a twig and waited and waited, chirping a little once in a while. He was very small, his tail feathers had not yet grown and he was finding it very hard to manoeuvre around as he tried to get higher and higher to get a better view of his parents who were still swooping by, caterwauling as they went. They were very frustrated with me but I figured that it was okay to sit and watch for a little longer as the baby was coming to no harm. He had such a grumpy expression and just sat in the same place and waited for something to happen.
Eventually dad blackbird flew in low and hopped closer and closer to the baby, so he could feed it. By then the fledgling was so desperate that he feel of his perch in an attempt to get to his dad anyway he could. It was then that he disappeared from view, thank goodness – out of imminent danger. I realised then, that all the squawking and agitation I had been hearing all over the forest for the last few weeks, was probably parent birds defending their fledgling babies from disturbance. I was regularly hearing the alarm calls made by blackbirds from the forest floor and the birds I managed to catch glimpse of were stiff and flighty with tails bobbing up and down, managing to jump and react to every small movement; really very disturbed. I also saw the same behaviour in great tits and crested tits in the canopy yesterday; they caused an absolute rumpus if I went too near to their ‘patches’ – the places where there young were – shouting and complaining and flitting this way and that to warn me off. It was only when I had been sitting in my spot for more than an hour was I able to see a group of blue tit parents and fledglings moving through the woods chattering quietly amongst themselves as they got on with the business of catching insects; flitting happily from branch to branch together.