Mission is on to save the willow tit

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A year-long project to protect the habitat of the willow tit at Sheffield’s Fox Hagg Nature Reserve is now complete.

As their name suggests, willow tits often make their home in willow thickets at the edge of damp places, such as marshland and peat bog. However, these habitats are under threat.

This project, led by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, involved staff and volunteers working in all weathers in the Rivelin Valley reserve’s wet woodland to halt the spread of vegetation unfavourable to the willow tit and promote the willow and other tree species it needs to thrive.

The willow tit is a ‘Red List’ species, which means it is globally threatened, having suffered at least a 50 per cent decline in numbers and breeding range in the last 25 years.

Fox Hagg Nature Reserve is perched on a steep hillside above the Rivelin Valley reservoirs and is freely open to visitors.

Funding for the project came from The Veolia Environmental Trust, which awarded a grant of £19,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Robert Miller, of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust - which aims to protect and enhance the natural environment of the local area and increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of the natural world - said: “South Yorkshire is one of the few places in the country where the willow tit is currently holding its own but, as its habitat is threatened, it is on a knife edge.

“Plans for the project were developed through feedback from the Fox Hagg Reserve Advisory Group - a group of volunteers made up of local people and users of the reserve who keep an eye on it, report any problems and make suggestions.

“We hope the work completed by this project will continue to maintain the necessary conditions for the willow tit to thrive on the reserve for the foreseeable future. We also hope that over the next 5 – 10 years we will see an increase in the willow tit population in the local area as result of this habitat management work.”

The executive director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, added: “It is great to hear that this important project is now complete.

“We love it when volunteers get involved in schemes we have helped and I am sure the hard work of those involved in this one will all be worthwhile.”

The Veolia Environmental Trust has been supporting community and environmental projects through the Landfill Communities Fund for 19 years, spending over £1.3bn on more than 51,000 UK projects.