Sunday 11 December 2011

Post post post

I think it's about time that I posted an update on those tits down at Hanson Environmental Study Centre. You will recall that the jury was out as to whether there was a Willow Tit present on site, together with several Marsh Tits.

Here's a reminder of the problem...

Marsh? Willow? Does anyone still care?
Since my original post, there have not been any positive sightings of a Willow Tit, despite much interest from the local birder population and the handy photos and descriptions posted in the Woodland Hide.

The consensus now seems to dither between it being either a hybrid bird (Mallow? Wirsh?) or it was always just a slightly differently-marked Marsh Tit.

What did become apparent however, was the lengths that some birders would go to, to photograph their quarry. Like pinching the bird table from the Centre and setting it up in front of the Woodland Hide. Or putting out vast amounts of bird food in an effort to attract any passing flying creature (and I do mean any flying creature, some of the heaps of seed would've been visible from Space). The upshot of all this malarkey was that as much upset was being caused by the so-called birding fraternity as had been created by the recent vandals.

In an effort to defuse an already tense situation between staff and users, the Friends group decided to add a second feeding post in front of the Woodland Hide, as the current one will eventually keel over. And so, this morning, half a dozen hardy souls braved the weather to tackle a bit of habitat management and some elementary woodwork.

Firstly, the Alder trees which obscured the view of the glade were felled above head height and then ring-barked to create some standing dead wood. The resulting wood was used to make two new feeding posts and two new log piles. Then, the scrub at the water's edge was thinned and topped. Lastly, a bird table was fashioned from some planking left over from a previous task.

Neil had a busy time, nailing Tony and Graeme's hands to a post
L to R, old post, new log pile, new bird table
Once all the chopping, sawing and hammering had ceased, Pauline primed the new bird table with a light dusting of seed and we retired inside the hide to watch and wait, to see which species would christen the post.

We should've had a sweepstake on which bird would be the first visitor, as the conversation revolved around this very topic:

Great Tit                       2/1
Blue Tit                         3/1
Robin                            5/1
Marsh Tit                    10/1     
Willow Tit                  100/1
Great White Egret 1000/1

In the end, after about 5 minutes and a few exploratory swoops, a Blue Tit was brave enough (or hungry enough!) to snatch the inaugural seed from the result of our morning's labours. After that, it didn't take long for the rest of the cast to join in (with the obvious exceptions of the Willow Tit and Great White Egret), so we decided that if they were happy with it, then we could sneak quietly away, confident in a job well done.

The above habitat shots were courtesy of The Admiral and Martin (I think).


Martin said...

We used to get both coming to our garden and could tell them apart... We thought! The Marsh pair more frequent than the solitary Willows... However I just can't remember enough to ID that one. You could argue that with white cheeks, no sign of a bib (therefore small), glossy head, and bull neck that it comes out on the side of the Marsh Tit. Any other photos to compare? I'll have a browse of our ID guides when I am home in a week and let you know if i have any further thoughts as a non-expert-on-birds biologist.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Having both at a feeder at the same time would be a bonus. I'm sure that would make IDing easier. If you're a N-E-O-BB, does that make me a N-E-O-JO? Safe trip!

Spadger said...

This reminds me of the very point I made recently to you, the Admiral and Ted, while sat in a hide at HESC, as to why I'm often reluctant to go birding. Some birders can be such Godwits it doesn't bear thinking about.

Mmm, perhaps I'm suffering acute withdrawal symptoms of my nightly rants with a certain communications company :0)

By the way, it's a Marsh tit!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Well, hopefully, all hide users will now be happy with the new arrangement, even the godwits.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

I like how you used standing tree trunks as the bases for the feeders. Who's usually in charge of adding bird food?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Katie, As ever, you cut straight to the chase! One of the first things the Friends group did upon formation was to negotiate free bird food for 6 months in return for a bit of advertising of the business involved. This has drawn to a close, but some of the birders now bring along food. The problem was that some folk were putting out huge quantities of seed that they had neither contributed to or were likely to replace. A little education should sort that. The two new posts (one is out of shot)were taken from the Alder tree visible across the water. We dug holes to sink them in and then fashioned a table for one of them. As standing dead wood, they should provide food and accommodation for plenty of invertebrates for a good few years.