2020 Willow Tit survey – abandoned because of COVID-19 restrictions

WOS is working with the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) and the RSPB to complete a national Willow Tit survey in 2019 and 2020, with support from Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and county bird clubs.

And we’d love you to get involved! Here’s why we’re running the survey…

Our endemic race of Willow Tit is the second-fastest declining species in the UK, after the Turtle Dove, making it a red-listed species.

Willow Tits are highly sedentary, remaining in an area close to their breeding territory throughout the year. In recent years, they’ve been lost from large areas of southern and eastern England.

Why the decline?

Along with others, RSPB have been researching this and have eliminated several potential causes. However, one potential cause that needs further investigation is the effects of deteriorating habitat quality.

In the UK, one of the Willow Tit’s main habitats is damp young woodland. This habitat is often short lived with sites frequently drying out and developing into mature woodland over 20-30 years. Along with other organisations, including Natural England, we’re currently trialling some woodland management solutions for willow tits. And they’re part of the Back From the Brink HLF project, involving detailed study of daily movements and habitat use as well as habitat management.

However, due to the declining numbers, monitoring is becoming increasingly difficult. While the BTO/JNCC/RSPB UK Breeding Bird Survey is still able to produce an annual trend, the sample had fallen to just 28 squares by 2017.

Although collation of records by the RBBP is useful for the design of future surveys, it is currently insufficient to enable robust population estimates, measures of change or maps of current distribution to be produced: thus a national survey is needed if our conservation work is going to be properly underpinned by evidence. 

Even in these exceptional times caused by the spread of the Corona virus and Government recommendations on social distancing, you should be able to get involved, especially if you are surveying on your own. Please visit the RSPB site for full details of how to join in – there’s still time.

SADLY THE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS HAVE CAUSED THE SURVEY TO BE STOPPED FOR THIS YEAR BUT IF YOU MANAGED ANY VISITS BEFORE THE LOCKDOWN, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR DATA IS SUBMITTED TO THE ORGANISERS.

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