It’s been a whirlwind three months since we wrapped up our Willow Tit survey of the Dearne Valley in April.

We had 14 super keen volunteers brave the “Beast from the East” in order to seek out what is a difficult bird to spot in fine conditions, never mind thick snow! Ultimately, the weather seemed to severely affect our results – 21 territories confirmed this year, down from 70 in 2015.

Other survey groups noted similar trends in results this year, and so we are keen to survey again next year to monitor if this was just a “blip” year.

In more positive news, we had a family of 5 Willow Tits fledge at the ever-awesome Carlton Marsh Nature Reserve, which held on to all of its territories from previous years.
This made the site the perfect choice for a guided poetry walk in partnership with the Ted Hughes Poetry Society. Of course, we didn’t see or hear a single Willow Tit, but this was off-set by poet Steve Ely’s charismatic reading of “Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah”, the song of the Willow Tit (perhaps his booming reiteration of the call scared all the real ones away!).
The event was well attended, with 20 people coming from all walks of life to listen to Steve perfectly match colourful poetry with the dramatic plight of the UK’s second fastest declining bird. “Regenerating pit-tip scrub, rustbelt refugia for under-seige kleinschmidti” he writes. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Whilst other projects are usually busy during the summer carrying out surveys, our work in Yorkshire is confined to the winter months. During the warmer seasons we have been reaching out to partner organisations to give them the resources to manage habitats for Willow Tits. Our biannual Willow Tit Summit is gaining traction, and our second of these events saw the Eastern Moors Partnership and Peak District National Trust teams come to Barnsley to learn more about managing woodlands and scrub.

This was followed by a Wet Woodland Habitat Management course, delivered by experts Jacqui Weir and Sarah Blythe from RSPB. Attendees from Barnsley, Doncaster, Leeds and Wakefield, Wigan and Birmingham attended. It’s quite humbling to realise how far the message of the Willow Tit is spreading across the country, and Back from the Brink seems to have added a new momentum to collaborative working for this species. Job done, eh?

There’s plenty more happening in the second half of 2018. Most of the habitat works will be underway in the autumn, so look out for future task dates with tree thinning, bird box installing and shrub planting all happening to ensure the habitat “scrubs up well” to attract the Willow Tit. See what I did there…?


Sophie Pinder

Project Officer



Would you like to help this incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.