Mike's 200 bird challenge Blog 9

Bridges/Stiperstones- flycatchers and owls

The lovely warm early spring weather had temporarily disappeared so it was on a pretty cool Sunday morning when I headed out to Darnford Brook above Bridges in South Shropshire to see whether the Pied Flycatchers had returned. This area is a very good spot to see these birds, as they nest in the nest boxes provided in the valley, along with Spotted Flycatchers, which wouldn't be returning until a little later, in May.

I wasn’t confident that I would have any luck as it was a biting cold wind, which I assumed would make the birds elusive. There were birds around though, Great Tits and Blue Tits in the tree canopy, a Treecreeper disappearing into a hole behind the bark of an oak tree, and Nuthatches chasing each other through the wood. Also I was lucky enough to spot a dipper flying low up the brook to get to its next fishing spot.

There were other birders walking the valley too, and it was whilst swapping notes that I caught sight of a small black and white bird perched on a low sapling in the wood. My first Pied Flycatcher (pictured) of the year, one of hopefully many that would return to the valley to breed.

From Darnford I drove over the top to the car park at the Stiperstones, in my opinion one of the most scenic walks in all of South Shropshire, to look for Willow Warblers. There is a little coppice about half a mile along the All Ability Trail which leads out of the end of the car park where I had seen Willow Warblers last year, so I was hoping that they had returned to the same spot. I was in luck. Alerted to their presence even before I got to the wood by their tell tale song I was able to watch at least five of these lovely little birds, fresh from their migration, singing and feeding in the tops of the trees seemingly oblivious to the cold wind.

Later in the day, towards dusk, I took a quick walk down to the valley behind my house, and was fortunate enough to see a Tawny Owl fly into a tree and eye me suspiciously before flying off deeper into the wood, calling as it went. All in all a very successful day despite the drop in temperature. Hopefully spring will put in a reappearance soon in time for the return of the majority of the spring migrants.  

Pied Flycatcher by Mike Bell