Suc­cess of pretty nuthatch

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

I RE­MEM­BER spot­ting my first nuthatch, it was on the win­dow feeder in our of­fice about five years ago.

At first it was a flash of pale blue and then it re­turned and I got a re­ally great view of this beau­ti­ful bird.

Since then I have seen many nuthatches on re­serves be­long­ing to the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side.

There are def­i­nitely more nuthatches ap­pear­ing on wood­land and gar­den feed­ing ar­eas.

This is hardly sur­pris­ing as our lo­cal Bird At­las says: “The ex­pan­sion of the nuthatch’s range since the early 1980s in Lan­cashire, as in most re­gions of low­land Bri­tain, is one of the re­cent suc­cess sto­ries of our birds.”

The to­tal Bri­tish pop­u­la­tion in­creased by 232 per cent dur­ing 1970 to 2010 with more than 5,000 birds now liv­ing in the re­gion. Nuthatches like wood­land but they are now be­ing seen in less-wooded coastal ar­eas.

About the size of a great tit, the nuthatch has a short tail, large head and a bill like a wood­pecker. Nuthatches climb up and down tree trunks in ma­ture woods and parks, feed­ing on in­sects and nuts and seeds, such as hazel­nuts and beech­mast.

They nest in holes in trees or aban­doned nests, but are happy to use nest­boxes too – which is very ex­cit­ing. They start breed­ing in April and can pro­duce two clutches of up to 13 eggs at a time.

They are won­der­fully pretty birds with a blue-grey top half, white cheeks and throat and a rusty belly. A black strip across their eyes gives them a dis­tinc­tive fa­cial ap­pear­ance and they have a black bill.

The fact that a nuthatch will re­main close to where it was hatched means that if you spot one it will prob­a­bly re­turn to the same spot over and over again – long lenses at the ready. And you should be able to hear one be­fore you see it. The nuthatch has a wide va­ri­ety of songs. The most common calls are a ‘twip, twip, twip, twip’ a sound sim­i­lar to some­one us­ing a key­board or a more shrill ‘preep, preep, preep’ song that should be recog­nis­able in wood­land.

This range of calls is ev­i­dence that nuthatches use them for dif­fer­ent pur­poses like mat­ing calls and alarm calls. It ap­pears to be clever as well as good look­ing.

Nuthatches spend a long time gath­er­ing food to store for harsher times.

Don’t be sur­prised if your own gar­den vis­i­tor uses crevices in your walls to store seeds and nuts for when the weather turns nasty.

Some birds have been known to store food for up to a month be­fore re­turn­ing to eat it. Dur­ing spring, sum­mer and au­tumn they usu­ally feed on live prey, like in­sects.

So keep an eye out for th­ese beau­ti­ful birds in your gar­den or when you are out walk­ing. Their re­turn is more proof that the work we all do on habi­tats and en­vi­ron­ment is work­ing and our wildlife is re­turn­ing as a re­sult.

To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side. Text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070. To be­come a mem­ber of the Trust go to the web­site at www.lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

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