BIRD NOTES With Julian Hughes.
| Nestboxes contain a chunk of birch for Willow Tits to excavate. | Inset, a cable-tied birch trunk PICTURES: HENRY COOK AS we head towards the BTO National Nestbox Week (February 14-21), a Colwyn Bay birder is trialling a novel nest to help one of North Wales' rarest birds.
Willow Tits were recognised as different to the similar-looking Marsh Tit only 120 years ago. Now they are on the Red List, three-quarters having disappeared since the mid 1990s. Only a handful are recorded in North Wales each year.
Willow Tits excavate their own nest hole. They have tiny bills, so can only excavate nest holes in soft, wet wood such as alder or silver birch.
It is suspected a lack of standing dead wood in forests and "brownfield" sites has reduced their nesting opportunities.
Their noisy approach to nest-building can also draw the attention of more common Blue and Great Tits, which then occupy the new nest hole.
Volunteer BTO nest recorder Henry Cook is giving Willow Tits a hand at a site in Denbighshire. Based on a successful project at Wigan Flashes, he is building nestboxes that contain a chunk of birch for Willow Tits to excavate.
The nestboxes are enlongated because Willow Tits like to tunnel down into the tree trunk.
He has also cable-tied pieces of birch trunk to other trees, and will monitor whether they get used.
| Weekend sightings included Glaucous Gulls at Llanddulas and Glaslyn Pools, and Blackthroated Divers at Llyn Llygeirian, Llanddulas and Moelfre.
Up to 20 Hawfinches were at Llanbedr-y-Cennin and three Siberian Chiffchaffs at Amlwch sewage works.
Five Firecrests are at Cors Ddyga sewage works and at least one remains at RSPB Conwy, with a