I've been reading about Pied Flycatchers on some of the Devon birding blogs: Wild Wings and Wanderings and Not Quite Scilly to be specific. It's interesting to see how blasé they are about this species, sauntering down to see it mainly because it was nice and cute etc. Well, it's a different story up here in Oxfordshire I can tell you. Whilst Pied Fly is probably reported just about annually, they're usually in some private location or someone's garden and are always completely untwitchable. In fact last year one turned up in a county birder's garden in Headington to give a lucky few who've been birding the county for many many years a long over-due tick for this species - that's how hard they are to see. Whilst I am a relative newcomer to the county birding scene I was fully aware of their rarity status so when I was out and about with the family on Saturday and I got a text from Badger saying that there was a Pied Flycatcher at Farmoor there was no small amount of gnashing of teeth on my part. My VLW and our younger daughter had gone to do a spot of shopping at Bicester Village and I'd offered to take Luke (our five year old) for a walk up the hills at Quainton in Bucks to look for ring ouzels whilst they shopped. There was no chance of me getting to Farmoor at all so I took it on the chin and did my best not to think about it whilst I fruitlessly scoured the hills. We finally got home from the shopping trip at around 6pm and a I sent a tentative text to Badger about the bird to find that it was amazingly still on show. I negotiated a one hour pass from my VLW and sped off towards Farmoor, managing to get there in 15 minutes instead of the usual 20. I parked up at Lower Whitley Farm and hot-footed it over to the Zig Zag where I met Nic Hallam, in his van as ever, staring out at the gulls where he was pleased to report at least a dozen little gulls and some common terns that had gone through. I asked about the Pied Flycatcher only to discover that he hadn't bothered to go the necessary fifty yards from where he was parked and see it - perhaps he didn't want to have to get out of his van! Of course, as the top county lister he already had Pied Fly so it wasn't such a big deal for him. Anyway, I nipped over to the Zig Zag and a quick call to Badger homed me in on the area to look. After a short while and with the help of a couple of other (unknown) birders who were also there, we managed to see it in a large green hawthorn bush. As I had only very limited time I didn't bother to try and photograph it and after a few minutes of watching it I had to head back home in order to be back within my allotted one hour time. A shame that I had to tick and run but it was great to see such a beautiful bird (a very smart male) in the county. Amazingly that's my second new county tick in three days. I'd start to wonder whether I might catch up with my Cornwall list total again but despite these new additions I'm still a couple behind so it's still not very likely.
Continuing my increasingly lazy approach to blog photography, if I can't manage to photograph something myself I just get someone else's photo or video instead. Paul Wren took this great piece of video which shows the bird fly catching from the comfort of it's perch. County birders might very well also want to see Badger's very funny clip of the Wickster running for the bird, though if you don't know Tom or appreciate the rarity value of an Oxon Pied Fly then the video will be lost on you (as I found out when I showed it to the rest of my family).
Farmoor Pied Flycatcher (c) Paul Wren.