A RECENT community event held at Cotehele saw locals meet the enthusiasts and Cotehele National Trust rangers who are trying to make room for nature and celebrate one of the Tamar Valley’s most elusive birds.

The British willow tit is a distinct subspecies of willow tit found only in the UK. In the last half century, the British population of these birds has dropped by more than 90%. However, in 2021, willow tits were found nesting in a rotten fence post near Cotehele’s Comfort Wood and last month an organised event saw people discovering the amazing work that Cotehele’s rangers have been doing to encourage the return of willow tits to the area.

The whole of the Tamar catchment should provide an ideal habitat for the willow tit, but in recent times, they have only been recorded nesting in the very northern stretches of the Tamar at the Tamar Lakes.

Thanks to the support of the Tamara Landscape Partnership and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) volunteers, the rangers at Cotehele have been able to encourage breeding willow tits by installing nest boxes in suitable habitats on the estate.

The simple nest boxes are made by creating a hole in a birch wood front to the box and then filling the box with sawdust, to replicate decaying wood.

It is hoped that these nature recovery plans will rekindle the local willow tit population.

At the Cotehele event, locals got the chance to learn about the habitats favoured by willow tits, see the fascinating nest-boxes being built and hear about the work being undertaken to support return of the species.

Since the start of the project there have been reported sightings of willow tit on seven or eight sites which are not officially recorded.

If anyone has knowledge of sightings across the Tamar catchment, contact Andrew Brown on: [email protected] so they can be included in future conservation efforts.