Back from the Brink Willow Tit Annual Survey Data
This dataset contains records of willow tit, great-spotted woodpecker and other bird species seen or heard responding to willow tit annual surveys, carried out as part of the Back from the Brink Willow Tit Project.
Annual surveys have collected population data and distribution across the project area, which continues to show a decline. However, we now have a better understanding of the habitat characteristics used by willow tits and how far they travel between patches. Using state of the art radio tracking technology, we have collected data which shows that willow tits need a mix of vegetation heights and will usually remain within a 3-hectare home range, though they could need up to 7 hectares of habitat to sustain a breeding pair. This data has fed into a landscape management plan which will be used by land managers in the Dearne Valley to continually improve habitat for and monitor willow tits.
More information about the project can be found on the project website: https://naturebftb.co.uk/the-projects/willow-tit/
The Back from the Brink project, led by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, helped willow tits in the Dearne Valley by ensuring there is good habitat for them, and improving linkage between patches through interventions such as coppicing and improving the structure of woodlands.
Annual willow tit surveys were undertaken to collect population and distribution data across the project area, which continues to show a decline. The purpose of this data is to achieve a picture of willow tit presence across the Dearne Valley, and the associated habitat with willow tit activity. In the case of this data, habitat association is based on winter ranges in the run-up to breeding season, which does not give a full picture but can provide useful information for land owners when managing land for willow tit, particularly in post-industrial areas. This helped provide the project with a better understanding of the habitat characteristics used by willow tits and how far they travel between patches.
The data reflects the general breeding distribution and population of willow tits in the Dearne Valley. Some privately owned or hard to access areas were not surveyed and therefore the dataset cannot be considered as comprehensive coverage of the landscape. The data recorders were consistent and experienced surveyors for the duration of the collection period and holds a high degree of reliability.
The chosen study area of the lower Dearne Valley, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was based around the boundaries of the Dearne Valley Nature Improvement Area (Natural England, 2014). Three core sites (Worsbrough Reservoir; Old Moor; Carlton Marsh) were selected for catching willow tits based on historical willow tit records, where populations were centred within the landscape. In addition, these sites were owned and managed by project partners (Barnsley Council; RSPB; Yorkshire Wildlife Trust).
Willow tit surveys
The surveys followed the recognised playback methodology recommended and tested by the RSPB which includes:
- Two to three visits between February and mid-April.
- Walking of a transect stopping every 100 metres to play the recording for two minutes, waiting for a further two minutes before noting down any response marked with the co-ordinates, time of response, number of birds, type of response (song or alarm) and surrounding habitat details.
Radio tracking data
Willow tits were caught at feeding sites or attracted by calls and fitted with colour rings to identify individuals. On birds which were weighed above the threshold, they were also fitted with radio transmitters for the researcher to follow their movements. Transmitters weighed 0.4g and were attached by gluing to the birds back in the first winter and using a natural rubber leg-loop harness during the second.
Birds were tracked for periods between 1-9 hours a day whilst the tag remained attached and working (1-12 days). The location of the bird was noted at ten-minute intervals using a 10-figure grid reference."
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ([Insert download year]). Back from the Brink Willow Tit Annual Survey Data. Occurrence dataset on the NBN Atlas
This biological data was generated under the Back from the Brink programme 2017-21, supported with principal funding by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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