Willow Tits at Pwll Waun Cynon in the Cynon Valley

WTSWW putting up bird boxes at Pwll Waun Cynon

WTSWW putting up bird boxes at Pwll Waun Cynon

Willow Tit by Francis C. Franklin

Willow Tit by Francis C. Franklin

The Willow tit and Marsh tit were only recognised as two distinct species at the end of the 19th Century, so similar are they in appearance.  But a sure-fire way to tell them apart is by their song, with the Marsh tit sounding a clear ‘pitchou’ and the Willow tit emitting a thin ‘zi-zurr-zurr-zurr’ or ‘zee-zee-zee’.   And it is the faint sound of this call that a keen-eared naturalist was treated to on a recent trip to Pwll Waun Cynon Nature Reserve, the Trust’s wetland site near Mountain Ash.

The Cynon Valleys once hosted a series of wildlife rich wetlands, woodland and scrub, large portions of which have been lost to development and industry on the valley floodplains over the years.   Sites such as the Coed Dyffryn wetlands were lost, where stands of mature willow offered suitable nesting opportunities for Willow tits, which excavate cavities for their nests in dead and rotting tree trunks.  When the site was cleared to make way for a supermarket development this small population was forced to disperse, and this Red List species became more reliant upon the remaining fragments of suitable habitat in the Valley.

These days there is evidence of several breeding pairs in the area, and a recent habitat restoration project at Pwll Waun Cynon gave some attention to improving the suitability of the site for Willow tits.  Specialist nest boxes were put up in the wet woodland area, made from hollowed out tree trunks filled with wood shavings and sawdust, to allow the females to excavate themselves a nest cavity to their liking.  One of the threats to these nest cavities is occupation by Blue tits, and so nest boxes aimed at housing these potential squatters were also put up in the vicinity.

With a recent confirmation of their presence on the site, and the Willow tit nesting season upon us, we hope to see breeding activity at Pwll Waun Cynon, and maybe one day a small resident population.