Willow tit habitat gets £30,000 funding boost in Stocksbridge

Stocksbridge based countryside management charity, The Steel Valley Project, has completed work on a �30,000 project to improve the habitat for the willow tit, one of the UK's most threatened bird species.
Stocksbridge based countryside management charity, The Steel Valley Project, has completed work on a �30,000 project to improve the habitat for the willow tit, one of the UK's most threatened bird species.
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Hopes of increasing threatened willow tit numbers in South Yorkshire have been given a boost thanks to completion of A £30,000 habitat improvement scheme by The Steel Valley Project.

Funding for this extensive project was provided by Veolia Environmental Trust and Sheffield City Council and work started in 2017 to improve the habitat and help to re-colonise the area after the Stocksbridge based countryside management charity found a local population of the willow tit in the Stocksbridge area.

Willow tits favour damp woodland, with young, thick vegetation providing insects, seeds and berries for food and a supply of dead wood which they use to create their own nest. A loss of this habitat, along with an increase in predators and competition from other birds, has contributed to a 94 percent decline in the willow tit population since the 1970’s.

To create the damp woodland environment which supports the bird, the Steel Valley Project worked to dam up drainage channels and, where necessary, divert water so that it did not run off the hillside too quickly.

Project manager for the Steel Valley Project, Tom Newman, said: “This project has been a fantastic opportunity for our volunteers to learn a range a different skills while contributing to improving woodland habitat for this severely declining bird. We’ve already had reports of willow tits at all three of the project sites and hope to see their numbers increase as a result of this project.”

Further work was also undertaken by the charity’s volunteer teams to build a series of ‘leaky dams’ where sections of trees are placed across a stream, slowing the flow of water.

Some tree thinning has been carried out to create more suitable open habitat, promote the new growth of species favoured by the willow tit and allow for replanting of other trees such as elder, goat willow, hazel, hawthorn and alder. For the final phase of the project, the charity planted over 500 trees across three woodlands in Stocksbridge and Deepcar: Pot House Wood, Newhall Wood and Fox Glen.

To further encourage willow tit’s to thrive, a number of nest boxes were built and fixed to trees with rubber strips to prevent damage.