Marsh Tit and Willow Tit

Back in 2013 I wrote my first ever PDF tutorial, little did I know then what it would all lead to and how many more I would write and publish! The tutorial was for this Marsh Tit painting, it was written at a time when I incorporated some white acrylic into my paintings in order to create the white highlights I needed. I tended to use it like watercolour paint, thinning it down and varying the thickness depending on the effect I wanted to achieve. I no longer use white acrylic or gouache in my paintings, preferring to stick with just watercolours. The PDF could indeed be used with just opaque watercolour white instead, and this would work equally as well if the consistency is controlled and used to your advantage.

With great trepidation I submitted the article to Leisure Painter magazine, and was absolutely thrilled when they published it in their magazine. All my life I had wanted to become a ‘published’ artist and be recognised for my work. This felt like a really big step in the right direction and I set about writing a further tutorial……

At the time of writing the PDF, I was taking a lot of my own reference photos. Jo and I were visiting bird hides and I had taken to baiting a suitable spot with food and then waiting for whatever came in. As you can see, the photo I took had the marsh tit with a seed in its beak, which I substituted for a tasty caterpillar in the painting. artistic licence!

In the process of taking my own reference photos I inadvertently captured a photo of a ringed Goldfinch. With a few more hours spent in the garden, I eventually had enough photos for us to work out the entire number on the ring. The bird had been ringed in Devon and we were put in contact with the ringer who we have remained friends with ever since and this is where we get on to the bit about Willow Tits which I know you have been waiting for! 😉

Yesterday we joined our friend to help with a National Willow Tit survey. The species is sadly the second fastest declining species in the UK after Turtle Doves. Visually they look almost exactly the same as a Marsh Tit – but their call is significantly different and the surveying was based on controlled playback of their various sounds in a designated area or tetrad as it is known. We had a full day of surveying, and now know the sounds a Willow Tit may make rather well!! We have at least one more day of surveying to undertake in a few weeks time, this will ensure we hopefully haven’t missed anything.

Yesterday we observed 3 birds that could have been our target species, but given the habitat it was felt they were probably Marsh Tit. Unfortunately with no call made, we cannot be certain. However, Willow Tit favour damp young woodland and we were surveying in pretty mature woodlands. These may well have held populations in the past, but they are unlikely to still be present and that is what the experts believe the problem is. Surveys like this help to provide vital data and statistics which can then impact on environmental projects and habitat management plans in the future. With a bit of help, hopefully this little bird can be brought back from the brink in this country.

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