Work was recently completed on a £30,000 project to improve the habitat for the willow tit, one of the UK’s most threatened bird species.

When the Sheffield Bird Study Group found a local population of the willow tit in the Stocksbridge area, funding was put in place to improve the habitat and help to re-colonise the area. Work started back in 2017 and finished this spring.

Willow tits favour damp woodland, with young, thick vegetation providing insects, seeds and berries for food and a supply of dead wood which they use to create their own nest. A loss of this habitat, along with an increase in predators and competition from other birds, has contributed to a 94% decline in the willow tit population since the 1970’s.

Creating the right habitat

Working in 3 woodlands in the Stocksbridge and Deepcar area: Pot House Wood, Newhall Wood and Fox Glen, we first needed to generate the damp woodland environment to support the willow tit. Drainage channels were dammed and, where necessary, water was diverted to stop it from running off the hillside too quickly.

Further work was undertaken by our volunteer teams to build a series of ‘leaky dams’ (where sections of trees are placed across a stream, slowing the flow of water).

Some tree thinning was also carried out to create more suitable open habitat and help to promote the new growth of species favoured by the willow tit.

In the final phase of the project, our volunteers planted over 500 trees (elder, goat willow, hazel, hawthorn and alder) across the 3 woodlands.

Encouraging nesting in the area

To encourage nesting in the newly developed habitats, we worked with our volunteers to build and erect a number of nest boxes.

Interestingly, the willow tit will not use traditional nest boxes as they like to excavate their own nest hole every year. This meant a little work was needed to trick them into using the new nest boxes.

Fixing them to trees with rubber strips (to prevent damage to the tree), a strip of birch wood was added to the face of the boxes and the box filled with sawdust to give the appearance of rotting logs.

How has this project helped?

Project Manager, Tom Newman, said: “This project has been a fantastic opportunity for our volunteers to learn a range a different skills whilst contributing to improving woodland habitat for this severely declining bird.  We’ve already had reports of willow tits at all three of the project sites and hope to see their numbers increase as a result of this project.”

For more information on the work undertaken for this project, see our previous posts:

Drainage work on willow tit habitat

Building a leaky dam to help the willow tit bird

Installing willow tit nest boxes

Funding for this extensive project was provided by Veolia Environmental Trust and Sheffield City Council. The work was carried out by The Steel Valley Project, and overseen by South Yorkshire Forest Enterprise Trust.

Veolia Logo

SCC logo

Willow Tit Project summary

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s