Willow Tits, since 1970, have seen a population decline of 94% in Britain and have earned the unenviable title of Britain’s fastest declining resident bird. A collaborative project led by CBWPS and the University of Exeter has been launched, seeking to combine sound science and expert local knowledge to find practical solutions to bolster the species in Cornwall.
There’s a lot to do but we’re off to a flying start, with a pot of funding already secured for enhancing habitat at Goss Moor national nature reserve.
Headed up by CBWPS Vice-Chair, Pete Roseveare and University of Exeter PhD student, Daveron Smith we are working with partners in Cornwall to collaboratively co-design and deliver landscape-scale initiatives that benefit both Willow Tits and the people that live and work in the landscape. By:
- Building relationships with local & national partners to better understand the species’ ecology
- Co-designing interventions, underpinned by scientific evidence, that are mostly likely to help this species, accounting for real-world constraints & opportunities
- Working in partnership with local land managers to drive changes in land management, leveraging nature recovery funding streams where available.
- Co-developing a monitoring framework and platform to measure and share the success of interventions
The natural environment in Cornwall is at the core of our identity and heritage, and the region is globally renowned for its beautiful land and seascapes and their unique history. However, its nature is highly fragile and not as healthy as it might seem. Nearly half of our breeding birds have declined, and several have already gone extinct. Work to help reverse these declines needs to begin now.
Why Willow Tits?
Our endemic subspecies of Willow Tit (Poecile montanus kleinschmidt) is Britain’s fastest declining resident bird, and within Cornwall is precipitously close to extinction. There is an urgent need to change the management of habitats, at landscape scale, to prevent this. With specific habitat requirements, a fragmented distribution and an aversion to dispersing over large expanses of open terrain, the species also presents an opportunity to consider more generally how landscape scale conservation can and should be carried-out. Such interventions are likely to bring about positive change for a range of other species and ecosystem services.
Willow Tit ‘Task Force’
We are well on our way to establishing a ‘Task Force’ of birders, land managers and conservation bodies to ensure Willow Tits, people and other species, see beneficial outcomes through this project. We have managed to leverage this so far to unlock funding for habitat works on Goss Moor which CBWPS will help to shape.
Habitat survey is ongoing – drawing upon RSPB methodology in Willow Tit habitat assessment we are also collating existing datasets and working with licenced bird ringers and other partners, to acquire insights into the ecology of the species locally and identify knowledge gaps.
Long-running survey effort, beginning this winter, will develop our understanding of the distribution of Willow Tits in Cornwall. CBWPS members are uniquely placed to help us with this effort and, over the coming months, we would be very interested in hearing from people that would be prepared to carry out some Willow Tit survey at locations throughout Cornwall, including well known strongholds and areas the species historically frequented.
What does this project offer for you?
For a birder, this group can:
- Use your skills to inform a large-scale project that will benefit Willow Tits in your area
- Give you the opportunity to work alongside researchers and conservation organisations to guide local conservation actions
- Provide training and upskilling for our standardised Willow Tit Survey method
- Provide targeted survey focus in the winter to early spring period
We will be hosting training on December the 2nd where we will delve into the methodology and recording in greater detail.
If you would be interested in coming along to the training and undertaking field surveys this winter, please contact Pete Roseveare and Daveron Smith using [email protected] or drop Pete a call using 07955216836 after 5pm and he will happily provide further information.