The Empty Nest

Yesterday was a very sad day. I went to the Thanksgiving Service of my friends thirteen year old son. When I returned home I knew straight away that the flycatcher chicks had gone.

Just an empty nest

Rob had fought cancer bravely for the past three and a half years. Yesterday we all met at a small village church to say thank you for his life, and to thank him for the love he had touched so many peoples lives with.

“Bright clothes welcome” said the announcement in the paper. This wasn’t going to be an occasion for dark clothes and tears. We filled the church and a marquee set up next door. There were lots of funny stories to smile and laugh about, the vicar was just like the Vicar of Dibley (and gave a brilliant, sensitive and heart warming service), and afterwards the kids ran around in the July sunshine as we drank tea in the village hall.

When I got home I knew straight away that something had happened to the flycatchers. Their nest was silent and the parents were nowhere to be seem. Andrew got the extending ladders out and I climbed up to look inside the nest. Nothing. Just an empty perfect nest.

So what happened? I think it was a magpie. I’ve watched the parents in the last few days see one off. Chasing it across the garden followed by a gang of juvenile blue-tits happy to join in with some action. The main predator of flycatchers has been found to be jays. No jays here at the moment but plenty of young aggressive magpies.

So now there are two more parents without their chicks. As in our lives, so it is with nature. Next year I hope to add two more nest boxes under the eaves. Two more chances of encouraging this beautiful bird back to my garden.

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16 thoughts on “The Empty Nest

  1. Hi Teagan. Thanks for the invite but today I’m off to a tea-party at DWT this afternoon, but I’d love to come over at the weekend if you are around…

  2. Hi Tricia. Thanks so much for visiting and thanks for your comment. I am “very” hopeful of a better year in 2009. Thanks again and I will be having a browse of your site now! Jane

  3. Oh jane, oh jane I’ve just caught up on this post. What a day. You mentioned Rob – it’s so tragic however you square it. And then that kind of juxtaposition of the flycatchers, I’m so sorry. What a shit day even the weather’s been deluging tears which never helps. Thinking of you – hopefully the tea party was jolly as the weekend puppy visit will be too. Hugs.

  4. Hi Paula. Your comment made me smile Paula… yes a shit day (no other way of putting it!) but it was lovely to see all my friends pulling together to help each other. “The girls” (as our group of 8 are known) have known each other for nearly 25 years and they don’t get much better… you can rely on each and every one of them.

  5. Blimey Jane – sorry to hear that. Nature at its cruellest I guess.
    Maybe next year you can fix some stout chicken wire around the nest box to let the spotties in and keep dose pesky (but lets face it, beautiful?) magpies out?
    I’ve got to admit I know practically nowt about Spotted Flycatchers. Do they have more than one brood? Maybe? Maybe not.
    Catch you later, Doug.

  6. Hi Doug. The really sad thing is that I think this WAS their second brood. They fly back to Africa at the end of August, so no chance of any more broods now. It’s a real shame as they are getting very scarse…. their numbers have dropped by something like 70% in the last 20 years. They are fascinating birds to watch, and it was a privilege to see what I did see and be able to record it. They seem to be pretty fussy about their nesting sites, worried that chicken wire would put them off, as they apparently like an open approach and landing area. I will have to see about training the wisteria up around the box (to hide it a bit) and add other boxes on other aspects of the house…. My view on “beautiful” magpies…. shoot the whole bloody lot of them!

  7. What a day! It must have been such a heartbreaker to have to face the fact that the chicks were gone, after already had a tough day as it was. Good to know that you have the girls (plus the support of fellow bloggers of course) to help.
    I hope the tea party did it’s bit to cheer you up a little..
    I’m sure you are right about the approach to the nest site needing to be clear – flycatchers seem to be a ‘flighty’ type, not ones for clambering through a hole in some wire to get to their nest site.

  8. Hi Steve. Thanks for your comment. It’s strange really. It was sad but seeing so many people during the day really determined not to let it be a “dark” day helped me cope with flycatchers when I got home. The flycatchers will hopefully come back next year… I’ve just got to make sure I do everything I can to encourage them. Nature is a bugger sometimes!

  9. Dear Jane, not a great day but glad to hear Rob’s thanksgiving service went well. What can you do to stop jays or magpies raiding the nest in future, especially if the flycatchers need a clear run at the nest entrance? If it needs a modified type of nest box, perhaps Mike can help with some carpentry … Loved the poppy pics as well – we went to Martin Down yesterday on way up to Salisbury and the wild flowers up there were looking great, so many different types and I didn’t have my wildflower book with me as usual!

  10. Hi Chris. Thanks. Not much we can do to stop the magpies/jays. All birds (of a certain size) are at risk of predation from them unfortunately. Just depends if they are lucky or not. Can’t change the box (as that is what the flycatchers like..). Just have to keep fingers crossed for next year. I could do with another couple of boxes though…. The wild flowers are gorgeous at the moment, absolutely buzzing with life as well. Glad you like the poppy pics.

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