• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
Feel the intensity, not your equipment. Maximum image quality. Minimum weight. The new ZEISS SFL, up to 30% less weight than comparable competitors.

Fly-catching nuthatch (no pics) - Northumberland 15/04/22 (1 Viewer)

_pauls

Well-known member
I went for a walk this morning alongside the river Blyth in Northumberland (at this point it is shallow fast-flowing river through mixed woodland) and saw a puzzling sight.

First up I saw a bird I couldn't quite identify hopping across the path ahead of me (fairly distant and I had no binoculars or camera) - it was sparrow sized and looked grey/brown back with a striking pale/white throat. When I approached it flew across the river into low vegetation on to the far bank.

When I got to where it had been and looked across to where it had flown I saw both the original and close by there was another similar bird - gray/brown above and a white throat but with a dark stripe on the head. At this point I figured nuthatch but it was not at the trunk of the tree as I usually see them, rather it was at the end of a branch over the river. It then did a perfect impression of a flycatcher - launching off, flying up to catch a fly and then returning to the same spot. I watched it do three similar circuits but I wasn't close enough to get a good enough view to positively ID it but visually it looked like a nuthatch in terms of size and markings.

What gets me is both the original bird on the ground, and the second bird fly catching from a branch behaved totally different to every nuthatch I had even seen (which I associate with flitting up and down tree trunks or foraging beneath bird feeders). The other factor putting doubt in my mind is that both birds seemed more grey/brown on the back and head rather than the blue/grey I expect in a nuthatch and that the white/pale throat was what first caught my eye.

I'm cursing that my eyes weren't sharp enough to give me confidence but its the behaviour that puzzled me - do nuthatch catch insects in flight?

Edit - my impression of the first bird was that it may be collecting mud for nest building like house martins do and I see that this is common behaviour for nuthatches.
 
Last edited:

KenM

Well-known member
I went for a walk this morning alongside the river Blyth in Northumberland (at this point it is shallow fast-flowing river through mixed woodland) and saw a puzzling sight.

First up I saw a bird I couldn't quite identify hopping across the path ahead of me (fairly distant and I had no binoculars or camera) - it was sparrow sized and looked grey/brown back with a striking pale/white throat. When I approached it flew across the river into low vegetation on to the far bank.

When I got to where it had been and looked across to where it had flown I saw both the original and close by there was another similar bird - gray/brown above and a white throat but with a dark stripe on the head. At this point I figured nuthatch but it was not at the trunk of the tree as I usually see them, rather it was at the end of a branch over the river. It then did a perfect impression of a flycatcher - launching off, flying up to catch a fly and then returning to the same spot. I watched it do three similar circuits but I wasn't close enough to get a good enough view to positively ID it but visually it looked like a nuthatch in terms of size and markings.

What gets me is both the original bird on the ground, and the second bird fly catching from a branch behaved totally different to every nuthatch I had even seen (which I associate with flitting up and down tree trunks or foraging beneath bird feeders). The other factor putting doubt in my mind is that both birds seemed more grey/brown on the back and head rather than the blue/grey I expect in a nuthatch and that the white/pale throat was what first caught my eye.

I'm cursing that my eyes weren't sharp enough to give me confidence but its the behaviour that puzzled me - do nuthatch catch insects in flight?

Edit - my impression of the first bird was that it may be collecting mud for nest building like house martins do and I see that this is common behaviour for nuthatches.
I’ve never seen Nuthatch “flycatch”…but I did once see a tree creeper(many, many years ago) repeatedly flycatch from several different perches.😮👍
 

_pauls

Well-known member
At one point I almost convinced myself it was a spotted flycatcher but couldn't reconcile that with the dark markings on the face which were quite apparent when it approached towards me chasing flies.

Might have a walk down the same stretch of river tomorrow with my camera to see if I can get some photos.
 

Alexander Stöhr

Well-known member
Hello Paul,

I hope you get a picture of the bird, but my thought was: why not a Northern Wheatear? Your description (including behaviour) seems ok for me, they do flycatch (although not so regular like White Wagtails?). Hopping on the ground excludes Wagtails.

And I agree with you and all, that there are too many points wrong/unusual for a Nuthatch.
 

_pauls

Well-known member
Hello Paul,

I hope you get a picture of the bird, but my thought was: why not a Northern Wheatear? Your description (including behaviour) seems ok for me, they do flycatch (although not so regular like White Wagtails?). Hopping on the ground excludes Wagtails.

And I agree with you and all, that there are too many points wrong/unusual for a Nuthatch.
Thanks Alexander - interesting suggestion and from front on it would be a good match but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't a wheatear - I would have noted the distinctive rump, plus I've never seen a wheatear in woodland.

I've walked along that particular stretch of river hundreds of times over the last 10 years and although I've never seen a flycatcher there it certainly wouldn't be out of place but I assume it is too early in the year.

I'll have another walk today and take binoculars and camera with me and hope for another sighting.
 

_pauls

Well-known member

Users who are viewing this thread

Top