River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Summer Visitors

September 2001


If you solved last month's crossword, you will know that we have had flycatchers nesting in the wall of our house. The "hole" is the recess for a beam of a long-demolished outhouse.

Four years ago, we noticed a pair of flycatchers refurbishing an old blackbird's nest, built on top of an old doorframe that leant against our shed. They duly brought up a family of chicks and flew off back to where they came from, somewhere in mid-Europe. One year later and they returned, and again using the same nest, successfully reared another clutch.

Last year, however, only one flycatcher returned. We can only suppose that something happened to his/her mate on the way. The bird stayed for about two weeks hoping, I suppose, that there might be a mate over here. Unfortunately, there was not (we assume) and he/she disappeared back to the continent in all probability. We finally moved the old doorframe as we had a new garage-cum-studio built and waited until June to see if the birds would reappear and, if so, where they would build their nest.

We were not disappointed. One day we noticed a couple of flycatchers diving and swerving as they gathered their food. But if they were building a nest, we did not know where. Our cat soon told us as she took to sitting just inside the back door staring up at the top corner of the doorframe. On one occasion, I went out of the door and a bird flew off immediately above my head. This little recess in the wall was where they were nest-building.

The weather by this time had at long last turned very pleasant and we took to sitting on our patio outside our back door. There we watched them going back and forth, not bothered about us even though we were only eight feet away. Eggs were duly laid and one day there was the sound of chicks - the cat going "bonkers" by this time.

The final part of the birds holiday with us came when the chicks became strong enough to leave the nest. Each one (we think there were five) was taken singly, shown the rudiments of flying and how to catch flies and insects. The finale was the most amazing demonstration of aerobatics as for about four hours the family dived, swooped and swerved over our lawn.

The next day they were gone. We assume they were on their long journey back to central Europe. Hopefully, next year they will reappear. I find it quite mind-boggling how these little birds are able to travel over hundreds of miles and arrive back exactly where they had been the previous year. I realise that there are far longer flights by other birds but they all seem to have this amazing in-built autopilot that guides them unerringly back to the same tiny little spot on the map. If any reader can explain this I would love him/her to write into the next issue.


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