Na­ture needs con­nec­tions

Middleton Guardian - - WILDLIFE -

WHEN you are talk­ing about na­ture a word that of­ten crops up in con­ver­sa­tions is con­nec­tiv­ity.

Con­nec­tiv­ity is re­ally im­por­tant in the nat­u­ral world, if wild places weren’t con­nected then our wildlife would live in is­lands with no way to in­ter­act with their fel­low crea­tures.

Ob­vi­ously this cre­ates prob­lems with in­breed­ing, which means prob­lems with the health and well-be­ing in close-knit fam­i­lies. Join­ing up with other mem­bers of your wildlife fam­ily and look­ing for mates even fur­ther field is much bet­ter.

We can look at the ex­am­ple of the wil­low tit. We are lucky to have around 10 per cent of the UK pop­u­la­tion in North Manch­ester and South Lan­cashire. Our wil­low tits are cen­tred on Wi­gan and they stretch our across the re­gion like branches from a tree.

This net­work is prov­ing suc­cess­ful with num­bers steady­ing then in­creas­ing in the North West. This con­nec­tion goes around Der­byshire and into York­shire, with branches stretch­ing out into Cheshire too.

Wil­low tits live in scrubby wood­land and many de­vel­op­ers will say that this is not im­por­tant habi­tat. In fact, some con­ser­va­tion­ists also see this as a prob­lem for ac­cess and would pre­fer scrub-free woods.

The un­for­tu­nate thing about the wil­low tit is that it won’t travel more than a few hun­dred yards from its “patch”. So when some­one builds a house across the net­work the bird be­comes iso­lated – it is Britain’s most en­dan­gered small bird.

Wil­low tits are not as brightly coloured as other tits, but they are still lovely birds. They have black back, cap and bib and are pale brown and white below. They give a dis­tinc­tive “zee, zee, zee” call.

Wil­low tits are so im­por­tant in our area that if you see one you should re­port it to the lo­cal record cen­tre so they can es­ti­mate the num­bers lo­cally.

The North West is gen­er­ally good for con­nec­tiv­ity as we have lots of green ar­eas which are con­nected by val­leys, rivers and canals. Even mo­tor­ways can pro­vide a net­work for birds, an­i­mals and plants to use.

Rail­way track sides have long been great places to see foxes and bad­gers as you pass by on the train. It’s just a shame that some of these con­nect­ing routes are also deadly for much wildlife.

One im­por­tant way we can cre­ate our own wildlife cor­ri­dors is by mak­ing our gar­dens more wildlife friendly. If ev­ery gar­den in a street has wild ar­eas and a way to get through bushes and fences, then that cre­ates a con­nected na­ture re­serve. Imag­ine that across a town or city and you have a huge amount of ex­tra habi­tat, a gi­nor­mous na­ture re­serve.

With all the talk about HS2 and many new roads be­ing built, we need to think about our wildlife and just how much dam­age break­ing up their con­nec­tions and net­works is caus­ing.

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.

Peter Smith

Wil­low Tit at Wi­gan Flashes

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