On driving home from my local supermarket Sunday lunchtime, following a rather dreary walk through the aisles to pick up the week’s family shopping, I was horrified to see that the temperature outside the car was a dismal 9 degrees centigrade.
Gusty winds and driving rain did not help the journey home and I started to wonder what was happening to the pied flycatchers on the BBC Springwatch webcams.
On getting into work the next day I was not surprised, but still horrified, to find that yet another family of pied flycatchers had succumbed to the cold. Tony Allenby, a local volunteer, and I then checked the 12 remaining nestboxes occupied by pied flycatchers and found not only a number of dead young but even a dead adult female in one of the boxes. Some broods had died in their entirety, while others had 3 small young still alive but with another 4 dead around them. Those pied flycatchers that were still incubating eggs seemed to be fine with all eggs warm and so, still being incubated.
The appalling cold and wet weather of Sunday and the last few days seems to have stopped insect emergence, so there was only just enough food for the adults but little, or none, to spare for the chicks. Pied flycatchers, which nested earlier, had raised decent broods but this cold weather has come at just the wrong time for many. Having flown such long distances to nest it was yet another reminder of the vagaries of the British climate; and with global warming a certainty the conditions for raising a brood of chicks will only get worse.
At the reserve we can get the habitat conditions right through careful and applied management and so encourage species like lapwing, wood warbler and pied flycatcher to nest, but we are helpless in the face of long-term climate chance through global warming.