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Save our willows.

Byline: ALAN WRIGHT

SOME of the scruffiest bits of woodlands in the region are also some of the most important for a beautiful small bird.

In fact, the willow tit is the most endangered small bird in the UK, with numbers plummeting some 97 per cent since 1980.

We have something in the region of 200 pairs of willow tits, about 10 per cent of the national total, and they all live in scrubby woodland.

They even make a point of digging nests in rotten wood and defending territories which seem a lot bigger than their tiny size.

And work by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has seen numbers of willow tits stabilise in our three counties - and possibly increase a little bit.

The largest concentration of willow tits in the region is in the Great Manchester Wetlands, centred on Wigan and then stretching out to Bolton and Salford.

Those branches also reach the Yarrow and Lostock valleys in South Lancashire, and also down into Cheshire. Our volunteers go out to ensure scrubby areas remain untouched and litter-free and create log attachments to trees.

The logs go rotten and provide ideal spots for tits to dig their nests. And we have launched an appeal to fund the continuation of this good work and create additional links so we have a network of territories across the North West and further afield.

Willow tits have declined because of climate change and habitat loss, particularly losing that connectivity between sites.

Well-meaning woodland improvements are often as bad for willow tits as retail car parks and warehouses, removing the woodland completely.

The dense scrub is an unloved habitat, as our nationally recognised willow tit expert Mark Champion says: "No-one hugs a willow."

So our appeal is not just about giving money it's about getting people to support these areas where willow tits live.

That means it's about getting people talking about willow tits and how lucky we are to have them living in our part of the world.

Talking about how important it is that a bird - even though it is tiny - does not become extinct in our lifetime ... on our watch.

Imagine your children and grandchildren not hearing willow tits when they wander into parks and the countryside? Smaller than great tits and larger than blue tits, with all the greens, yellows and blues washed out, willow tits have light tan underside a little darker on its back.

Their wings have dark tips and they have a black beard and cap that stretches past those white cheeks.

While not as striking as other birds in its family, it is certainly a pretty bird and I think we should do everything we can to continue to save it.

To help us to support the willow tit you can go to https://www.lancswt.org.uk/donate.

? The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey.

. ? It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.

. ? To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.

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The willow tit is under threat
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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 11, 2018
Words:582
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