Marsh Tits

dsc_0210I managed to spend five minutes today watching one of my favorite birds at Swanick Lakes. Marsh Tits have massively declined in the UK – unfortunately a common trend for too many bird species. This is partly due to a number of reasons, food availability, climate change, habitat loss, displacement by more robust bird species such as Blue Tit. We’re therefore very lucky to have a healthy population in Swanick and on Hookheath.

Despite it’s name, Marsh Tits don’t prefer wet woodland, they are a an inhabitant of older, developed woodland which, importantly, has a good mid-level shrub layer. It nests in tree cavities much like Great Tit and Blue Tit and is less aggressive and therefore often out-competed by these two species. The work that I have recently blogged about has Marsh Tit in the forefront of our minds, as coppice work develops this shrub layer if managed carefully.

It’s easy to identify when you see it on site, a black head with a  little black bib under the chin, with an olive/buff colouration on the body. The species that it is confused with is a Willow Tit, something that, unfortunately, we do not get down here any more, with one small population occurring in the north of the county. Willow Tit has seen the same decline in population but is a much more northerly based bird, with its stronghold in the Cheshire and Manchester areas. The call separates these two species most effectively, with the Marsh Tit giving a sneeze like, ‘pcheeew’ call.

The feeders at Swanick are an excellent place to view them, though they are not frequent visitors, and mainly in the winter months. They do pop down briefly but do not linger, snatching a seed and returning to the safety of a tree to eat it. This is in stark contrast to some of the other species on the feeders today, such as this greedy Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch.

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