Willow titivation

Willow tit
The Willow tit – the member of the Tit family that thinks it’s a woodpecker.  They prefer to hollow out the stump of an old, well-rotted tree – rather that going down the more conventional route of nesting in existing cavities. The D.I.Y. tit in fact.

They are famously difficult to separate from Marsh tits and, in fact, ornithologists didn't realise there were two species until 1897. One difference however is the 'bull-necked' appearnce of the Willow. You don't get to do all that excavating without being a bit beefy in the neck region

This year Willow tits successfully nested on the patch.  As it is a Red List species, with just 3,400 UK pairs – this is probably the patch’s star bird.

With a view to helping them and hopefully increasing the population, I’ve been carrying out some D.I.Y. of my own.  I’ve been stalking the patch, power-drill in hand, like some crazed, latter-day…person with a drill.

The Willow tit nesting box is filled with sawdust – the idea being that this allows the female to ‘go through the motions’ of excavating the box. The success-rate with this kind of box is quite low, so I’m not expecting Big Box Things.

Last year I had put up a conventional box, filled with wood chips, 1m from the ground. I was slightly surprised to find it being occupied by Blue tits. Willow tits chose a site  which is relatively low down in order to minimise competion with Blue tits.

It’s possible that the Willows removed the wood chips then were ousted by the Blues. This is something that happens frequently, and is a factor in the scarcity of Willow tits.

I intend to put up more regular nest boxes – hopefully this will reduce the chance of a Blue tit boot out.

Willow tits frequently come into  the garden to use the feeders - something I try not be blase about - this is an uncommon bird after all. After I'd got back from a nestboxing caper, a bird called 'zee-zee-zee'.

This is almost certainly Willow-eze for 'thanks, Phil for the time and effort, not to mention the expense, of errecting the boxes, I will certainly take a brief look, and then nest elsewhere.'

Finally some nice blog news - this has been selected as BBC Wildlife Magazine's blog of the month and was 'Highly Commended' in the 2015 Blogger Awards.
Recent Patch Sightings
13/12 - Dunnock, Coal tit, Great tit, Song thrush in song
16/12 - Tree sparrow -1 in the garden
15/12 - Woodcock - 3 flushed
18/12 - Velvet shank - fungus
18/12 - several plants in unseasonal flower
Willow tit nesting box...
..filled with sawdust
This supposed 'Willow tit box' had been used by Blue tits


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Comments

  1. Well I think threefold congratulations are in order... Firstly, what a wonderful little bird to have nesting at your local patch and also visiting your garden. I hope they choose to make use of your nestboxes! (I've only ever seen them the once, and that was at Woolston Eyes reserve which I expect you know.)

    Great to see your blog amongst the 'highly commended' in the 'blogger awards' and also to appear as blog of the month - well done and well deserved! :)

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    1. Thanks very much Jan, and thanks for pointing out the awards - wasn't previously aware of that - congrats to you too! Yes brilliant to have them around here. BTW - the best place I know of seeing them is Pennington Flash, you're almost guaranteed great views.

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    2. Thanks very much for the tip - Pennington Flash isn't somewhere I've ever been, but I've heard it mentioned enough times I feel I really should visit!

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  2. Great work, these little birds need all the help they can get.

    Shaun Walters,
    conservation officer Waingroves community woodland Derbyshire.

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  3. It makes me feel old (at 40) to think I remember seeing Willow Tits locally to me in Milton Keynes, There are virtually none in Buckinghamshire now, so sad. I guess a huge amount of this must be due to the constant need councils have for "tidying up" the local parks and woods, it is rare to see a decaying tree or log pile these days.

    Great to read about your pair, would love them to return to my patch one day, I can but hope.

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    1. Thanks Asheley, Yes, unfortunately both Marsh and Willow tit numbers have crashed over the last couple of decades. If I want to see a Marsh tit now I have to go somewhere like Leighton moss.

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  4. Just to say... Merry Christmas Phil and all the best for the New Year! :)

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  5. Thanks a lot Jan, same to you and happy blogging in 2016!

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