Nature often compensates for shortcomings by awarding an extra asset.

Butterflies cannot impress with song but they have been given a magnificent array of colours instead.

Among birds, spectacular audio frequently replaces the ability to thrill observers visually. Birdwatchers often refer to “little brown jobs” with their “uniform” of brown or brown/grey feathers.

But they usually possess the vocal chords of opera singers to make up for drab appearance. Good examples are nightingales and wrens.

Wild Things: Crimes against nature

The spotted flycatcher, though, is at a bit of a disadvantage all round. It’s just a couple of shades of brown and a single shade of grey. The song is just a repeated “tzee.”

Yet it excites with mesmeric movement. Spotted flycatchers sit on telegraph wires, posts or bare branches waiting for insects to fly past then launch themselves with attitude and determination, twisting, turning and hanging in the air to grab with billsnapping finality before returning to their original perch.

Spotted Flycatchers were fairly common breeding birds around the woods of Abbey Wood and Belvedere 50 years ago. My parents hosted a pair in their Belvedere garden. They filled a half coconut feeder with bird food before going on holiday and returned to find a spotted flycatcher inside sitting on eggs ! The flycatcher fledged three chicks.

Wild Things: Endangered Water Voles thrive at Crossness

As far as I know spotted flycatchers no longer breed in the area and may only be seen fleetingly at places like Footscray Meadows and Lamorbey Park, Sidcup, on migration.

Their population crashed by more than 80 per cent since 1989 for reasons unknown.

So I was delighted to discover a spotted flycatcher’s nest in a roof space on my brother-in-law’s house on a visit to Finland recently.

The nest, containing four healthy chicks, was clearly visible from the entrance hall but empty when I checked next morning.

The young had fledged. For the next four days I watched as the parents went into hyper active hunting mode to supply a constant diet of insects with their switchback flights.

After a spell of heavy showers they all disappeared. Job done. Back to Africa for these little brown jobs.