Study species: Pied Flycatcher
Research topic: Breeding ecology
Institution location: University of Exeter
Research locations: Devon and Somerset woodlands; East Dartmoor NNR
Project organiser: Malcolm Burgess
PiedFly.Net is a science based non-profit organisation co-ordinating community participation in monitoring Pied Flycatchers and other hole-nesting woodland birds to contribute to science and monitoring projects. The network co-ordinates monitoring of nest box schemes with breeding populations of Pied Flycatchers across southwest England. It is run by Malcolm Burgess. See www.piedfly.net.
PiedFly.Net was initiated in 2011 and has 40 participating nest box schemes. Coverage is particularly comprehensive across Dartmoor’s woodlands but schemes are spread across much of the ancient oak woodland of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. Several schemes have been running since the 1970s, and many since the 1980s, and the network holds all this valuable historic data. Each nest box scheme has 20-250 nest boxes. During the breeding season nest boxes are checked weekly and their contents recorded. From this monitoring we are able to monitor long term trends in occupancy, timing of breeding and nest success. In total more than 2000 nest boxes and c. 250 pied flycatcher nesting attempts are monitored annually, mainly by groups of volunteers. Both nestlings and adults are ringed at the majority of schemes, enabling more detailed research and monitoring to be undertaken.
The largest population of Pied flycatchers in southwest England is found at East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve, which encompasses Yarner Wood and the Bovey Valley Woodlands. This is the longest running scheme in the region, starting in 1955, making this one of the longest running nest box schemes in Europe with 60 years of recording Pied flycatchers, and also Blue tits, Great tits and Common redstarts that also use the boxes. The East Dartmoor NNR population is the focus of many more involved science projects through the University of Exeter, including for example work on migration using geolocators and work on woodland phenology.
Pied flycatchers are well studied across their European breeding range, nesting in nest boxes makes them easy to study in large numbers. PiedFly.Net represents the UK in such work, contributing data to several pan-European studies that use Pied flycatchers as a model species. This work is very diverse and investigates for example population genetics, plumage variation and European scale population responses to climate change.