A “Tit”-anic problem?

coal tit sherwood.JPG

Coal Tit, Sherwood Forest

This blog is an exciting one: the beautiful, unmistakable coal tit, then the not-so-easy-to-identify (unless you hear the song) marsh/willow tit.

It’s now early November and I’ve noticed 5 or 6 coal tits visiting my back garden feeders regularly over the last few weeks.  I first heard them in a holly bush growing at the side of my back garden, making a really high pitched “zeet zeet” in a repeated series of patterns.

It’s a tiny bird which carries a plump olive grey back and a pale peachy buff below and a white double wing bar.  It has a glossy black head and white cheeks, with a white patch on the nape.

coal tit ladybridge.jpg

Coal Tit, Ladybridge, Chesterfield Canal

A year round resident and sometimes migrant, it loves woodland, particularly large conifers, and gardens, parks and farmland, particularly in winter.  They choose to nest in a hole or crevice in  a tree or bank.  The eggs are whitish with reddish orangey blotches.

We’ve seen them in several locations, as can be seen in the pictures: Kings Park, Chesterfield Canal and Sherwood Forest.

coal tit.JPG

Coal Tit, Kings Park

The next bird presents us with a problem!  We can’t decide whether it’s a marsh or willow tit.  We only got a quick glimpse as it came down for a drink of water left from a heavy shower in a stump at the bottom of a tree.

willowmarsh tit sherwood.JPG

Willow/Marsh Tit, Sherwood Forest

As you can see, you can’t get it mixed up with the coal tit or others, but without seeing them both together or hearing them, it’s hard to identify whether it’s a marsh or willow tit.  I do know through my birding knowledge that one has a slightly larger bib and is neater in appearance.  They are both on the RSPB red list due to declining numbers, so it was an exciting spot whichever one it was!  It was definitely a first for Alison and me and we were really excited to see it.

This black capped 12 cm tit with a brownish back and pale buffish body will excavate a hole in a rotten stump or a deserted tree hole.  The songs are slightly different: the marsh tit is a “pit-choo, pitchawee-oo”, whereas the willow tit is a “dee chay” or sharp “eez”. This is a good way to tell them apart, but unfortunately ours didn’t make a noise!

These pictures cover the months of July and August, and the last coal tit was more recent, on October 24th.

Look out for them around the local area – it’s quite exciting to spot them!

 

 

 

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