We definitely have willow tits! Today Mary, a volunteer recorder from a new conservation project, came and did a challenge survey, where a recording of song is played to see if territorial birds will respond to the ‘intruder’. And they did – at least 2 pairs on Popehouse Moor came and investigated our loud speaker. That’s good news as the British sub-species of willow tit (kleinschmidt) has recorded a serious decline in the national Breeding Bird Atlases of recent years. In the first national breeding atlas (1968-72) willow tits were found in 1220 10km map squares across the country; in the second atlas period (1988-91) this breeding range had contracted to 1200 squares; and the most recent data (2007-2011) showed them only in 558 10km squares.
They look very similar to marsh tits (which we also have), and the best way to tell them apart is to hear their song – hence the survey technique. They both like wet woodland, and willow tits particularly like dead wood – where they can excavate a nesting hole for themselves. Finding a nest would be lovely, but I don’t think we’ve got the time for the stake out…
But the survey, which is happening across Devon, will help double check the population estimates an help inform conservation approaches and priorities. Meanwhile, it’s great to know they are here. Mary said ‘it’s made not just my day, but my week’.
(Photo by Tim Watts on Flikr)
The willow tit project is a partnership between Devon Birds, Devon Wildlife Trust and Devon Biodiversity Records Centre.