Sunday, 18 December 2016

Feeding time

Willow Tit is now sadly considered extinct as a breeding bird in Dorset, for reasons which are not entirely clear. Pondering the causes over a pint with some fellow Swineham regulars the other evening, a number of possibilities were mooted: variations on the established themes of competition (from other tit species?); predation (including by Great Spotted Woodpeckers?); changes to their of preferred habitat etc. Maybe even a lack of observer coverage in 'The Shire', the green and pleasant parts of western Dorset which used to be the stronghold of the species.
On the back of this rather dispiriting discussion, last Sunday's excursion to Derbyshire presented a good chance to catch up with Parus montanus as they are doing relatively well there, including at a few sites where they come to feeders to supplement their natural diet. One such is Carsington Water, a large Severn Trent reservoir which is managed for a range of recreational activities and for wildlife. Having got about as good a view of the Dusky Thrush as I was going to get, I headed straight there hoping for a reasonably quick result so I could still get home at a sensible time. I didn't realise how easy it would be - I heard my first chay chay call just after leaving the car park from a Willow Tit which flew across the path as I headed to the wildlife centre. On entering it or another was on the feeding table before I could ask one of the friendly volunteers 'Are there any Willow Tits about?'
Confusion was Marsh Tit, a similar species which also comes to feeders, was conveniently avoided as they are not present at Carsington. The volunteer wardens kindly let me open a window to get some photos, and I retired outside to get a few photos in a more natural setting than the feeding table - not too difficult to see the birds perched, very difficult to get a decent photo in the continuing low light of last Sunday afternoon.  A healthy flock of Tree Sparrows, another species not often seen in Dorset, provided further cheer and their chipping calls were still ringing in my ears as I headed south for home.

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