Save Danes Moss

Willow Tit survey project in Cheshire and the Willow Tit Event, 16th March 2024
Willow Tit event banner
The Willow Tit at Danes Moss – a declining bird in a threatened place

The proposed development site at Danes Moss North is a local stronghold for the British race of the Willow Tit (Poecile montanus kleinschmidti), our most endangered resident bird species. Over the last 50 years its numbers have plummeted by 94%. Here in Britain, the Willow Tit lives almost exclusively in young scrubby wet woodland often on former industrial sites but also along streams and rivers and in regenerating birch and willow woodland on mosses and mires.

Danes Moss – ideal habitat for Willow Tit

The wet woodland and adjacent moss rooms at Danes Moss provide the perfect habitat for Willow Tit. In spring Willow Tits excavate a nest hole in the rotten trunks and branches of young willow, elder and birch. Blue Tits and Great Tits cannot excavate their own nest holes and require older trees where natural holes develop. As woodland matures, they may move in and outcompete the Willow Tits sometimes taking over their nest holes. Willow Tits are also vulnerable to predation by Greater Spotted Woodpecker; another species that favours more mature woodland. Willow tits depend therefore on a succession of young, permanently wet, woodland with dense thickets where the humidity ensures a plentiful supply of rotten wood for nest hole excavation.

Willow Tit are fairly sedentary remaining within a home range of about 3Ha although they may need as much as 7Ha of suitable foraging habitat to support a breeding pair. Young birds may travel up to 5km to establish new breeding territories but will avoid crossing open ground so habitat fragmentation is another factor in their decline. Areas of wet woodland suitable for breeding need to be connected by hedgerows, woodland or scrub to maintain a thriving Willow Tit population.

Juvenile Willow Tit on Danes Moss
A juvenile Willow Tit begging for food, this is one of the 2023 fledglings on Danes Moss
Willow Tit – hiding away in plain sight

The Willow tit is a shy and retiring bird that is seldom observed and only readily distinguished from its close relative, the Marsh tit, by its distinctive call and song. The only reliable method of confirming the presence of Willow tit is using playback recording in their breeding season. In the absence of a programme of targeted surveying it is very likely that they are under reported.

Willow Tits in and around Cheshire East

The current understanding of Willow Tit distribution in eastern Cheshire, north Staffordshire and the south western edge of the Peak District is that there is a population on the southern edge of Macclesfield at Danes Moss with populations also present at Rudyard, Tittesworth and Coombes Valley. In addition to this, there are other areas of potentially suitable breeding habitat and dispersal habitat and it is likely that WT are present in small numbers in some of these areas.

Wet woodland on Danes Moss
Wet woodland on Danes Moss - ideal Willow Tit habitat
The Willow Tit Survey Project – finding out where the Willow Tits are

With a breeding population confirmed at Danes Moss in 2023 our friends at local environmental charity Macc Wild Network Trust are keen to identify other populations of Willow tit in the area and explore the opportunities for habitat creation to create a network of suitable habitat that would enable the expansion and dispersal of existing populations. This would help to secure the future of these threatened and vulnerable birds in an area that may prove to be one of their strongholds in the North West. A Farming in Protected Landscapes grant has been secured from the Peak District National Park to survey potential Willow Tit sites this spring along the corridor of potential habitats between the known populations at Danes Moss and the north end of Rudyard Lake. The survey work will also extend eastwards where there is further potential for Willow tit populations in areas of suitable habitat along the course of the River Dane and the canal and reservoir feeder channels leading up into the foothills of the Peak District.

Click on image to hear a Willow Tit singing, Danes Moss 2023
The Race to Save the Willow Tit and Danes Moss – 7pm Saturday 16th March

An important part of this project is an event at St Michael’s Church in Macclesfield at 7pm on Saturday 16th March. This event is a joint venture between Macc Wild, Save Danes Moss and the RSPB Local Group in partnership with Moorlands Climate Action and Buxton Field Club, a venture that demonstrates the depth of concern about the development proposals at Danes Moss both in Macclesfield and a wider area.

The event will explore the Willow tit as icon of environmental loss that seems almost tailor made to serve as a symbol for Macclesfield’s own wildlife gem – the threatened raised lowland bog at Danes Moss. Both the bird and the place will be celebrated with an uplifting evening of poetry, thought and determined action for nature. The event will explore why saving Willow Tits and Danes Moss matters, the importance of the connections between Danes Moss and other Willow tit sites and why we need to know more about local populations to inform conservation efforts. It will explore why saving and creating Willow Tit habitat benefits so much other wildlife besides as well as helping natural flood management and combating climate change. The event will be a springboard for future action to conserve this special bird and the habitats in which they thrive.

Please join us for this very special event and support the campaign to Save
Danes Moss. You can register and book tickets at:

Willow Tit Eventbrite Page
Click on the image to go to Eventbrite and reserve your place!

This event is free but booking is essential as we anticipate that this will be a popular event. If you no longer require your ticket, please cancel to allow others to book.
The event is part of a wider Willow Tit project kindly supported by the Peak District National Park’s Farming in Protected Landscapes grant scheme. Thanks also to Scoop and Scales, Macclesfield for also kindly supporting this event.

Share:

More Posts