As spring draws nearer, Willow Tits are out and about establishing their territories and getting ready for the all-important breeding season.
Willow Tits only have one brood per year, so it is crucial they have somewhere suitable to nest and raise their young. This February will be a really busy time for the project, installing nest boxes and creating the best possible nesting habitat across the Dearne Valley.
National Nest Box Week runs from the 14th to the 21st February, commencing on Valentine’s Day to symbolise birds pairing up for the breeding season. To make things even more romantic, Willow Tits are monogamous and will mate for life.
To celebrate National Nest Box Week, our dedicated team of Willow Tit volunteers will be installing nest boxes across several of our landowner’s sites. As Willow Tits need to excavate their own nest hole every year, they won’t use traditional nest boxes. We are trialling some alternative designs, which are hollowed-out birch logs compacted with sawdust to mimic deadwood to allow them to construct their own cavities. These are then nailed onto living trees about a metre from the ground to avoid competition with other species. Blue Tits are the main source of competition for nest sites, and will often take over an excavated dead stump constructed by Willow Tits, so installing nest boxes may provide a solution to this rivalry.
There is no quick fix though, and no replacement for good quality habitat. Our winter habitat works will continue to create suitable “natural” habitat by leaving stumps to rot down, leaving as much standing deadwood as possible and creating the right woodland conditions for Willow Tits to inhabit. Natural nesting sites are especially important to maintain, as a lot of suitable sites for birds are declining at a rapid rate, as gardens and woods are being “tidied up”.
For National Nest Box Week we aim to increase the number of suitable nesting sites, particularly for Willow Tits, but will undoubtedly benefit other species also. Installing boxes will not only help individuals, but will also provide a simple way for us to monitor how Willow Tits use these areas for nesting and learn more about their nesting behaviour.
With a massive Willow Tit survey of the Dearne Valley happening this year, we will soon see if our efforts to provide nesting sites has been successful early on! Keep your eyes peeled…