A spot of bother with birds
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