A spot of bother with birds

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

I HAVE some very clever col­leagues who know more about wildlife than some very thick wildlife books. One of my aims is to do some­thing a bit more ‘wildlife’ than them, but so far I have failed mis­er­ably.

My lat­est at­tempt came in Wi­gan re­cently. My es­teemed col­league Mark Cham­pion was run­ning cour­ses to in­crease record­ing of wil­low tits, one of the coun­try’s most en­dan­gered birds. Mark had held three such cour­ses and seen a few wil­low tits dur­ing walks around lo­cal na­ture re­serves.

It was my plan to find and pho­to­graph a wil­low tit, so that I could show off in front of the Wi­gan Wildlife War­lord and his fol­low­ers. And I found the per­fect spot where bullfinches, blue tits, great tits and long-tailed tits were feed­ing.

Then along came a black-capped bird with an or­angey-brown belly. I thought: ‘A wil­low tit!’ I took a num­ber of pic­tures and rushed to find Mark. There was the ap­pro­pri­ate crowd of peo­ple around him as I an­nounced: ‘I hear you haven’t seen any wil­low tits. Well here’s one.’ I thrust my cam­era at him.

‘That’s a coal tit,’ he growled and the en­tire group turned their backs and sighed. I was de­flated.

How­ever, sit­ting on my own later on, I looked at the pho­tos and re­alised I had taken some lovely shots.

It might not be as rare as the wil­low tit but the coal tit is a lovely bird. The main dif­fer­ence is a white patch on the back of the coal tit’s head, the wil­low’s cap is just black.

Coal tits mainly live in conif­er­ous forests and feed on in­sects and spi­ders amongst the smaller branches of trees in wood­lands and parks.

But don’t be sur­prised if you see them in your gar­den on the bird ta­ble if you live close to conifers.

They will make use of fat-filled feed­ers, es­pe­cially those con­tain­ing in­sects. They re­ally seemed to ap­pre­ci­ate fat put into cracks in trees and branches.

While coal tits nest in holes in trees they will make use of nest­boxes if you are re­ally lucky.

Coal tits are grey above, buff below, with white cheeks, a black cap and a white neck patch.

They can be dis­tin­guished from sim­i­lar marsh and wil­low tits by their white wing­bars and that white patch at the back of the head.

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. The Trust is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion of the wildlife in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side. It man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serves. To be­come a mem­ber see www.lanc­swt.org. uk or call 01772 324129.

●● A coal tit has a white patch at the back of its head

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