Longtailed Tits

Latest Entry: Long-tailed Tits roosting in Hembury Woods

Previous Entries:

Long-tailed Tits roosting in Hembury Woods
Long-tailed Tits roosting in Hembury Woods 19 March 2016

I started my search for long-tailed tit roosts in late November last year. I usually wait until most of the leaves are off the trees as the birds will tend to roost in holly and ivy clumps then. There were plenty of birds around after another successful breeding season. A flock at Spitchwick on Dartmoor proved too difficult to find as there are so many potential roost sites here and I missed another flock by the old church at Buckfastleigh. I then turned my attention to Hembury Woods and was more successful here than I could ever have imagined.


Long-tailed Tits
Long-tailed Tits 30 March 2015

For the last five winters I have been following flocks of long-tailed tits through the woods around Buckfastleigh hoping to find their roost sites. This isn’t easy and I struggled to find any roosts last winter. I began looking again in late November 2014. The long-tailed tits had obviously had a good breeding season as there were plenty of flocks around in the woods and hedgerows. My first attempt following a flock of 10 at Hembury Woods failed as they flew off across private farmland at dusk to roost. I turned my attention to Spitchwick, here the local flock has a large area of scrub to roost in so finding them is often difficult.


Long-tailed Tits
Long-tailed Tits 21 February 2014

It has been hard work tracking the Long-tailed Tits to their roosts this winter. I made a special effort early in the season as I was hoping to include this behaviour in a Radio 4 Living World programme on these birds. Visits to last winters roost sites in the Dart Valley were fruitless, the leaves remained on the trees well in to November and it is not usually until leaf fall that I have found roosts in the past.


Following the flock - Long-tailed Tits
Following the flock - Long-tailed Tits 13 February 2013

It has been fascinating watching the flocks of long-tailed tits in the local woods again this winter. I stay local and try to get out for a couple of hours each afternoon to follow and sketch them and hopefully find their roost sites. After the poor breeding season it is no surprise that the flock numbers are lower than last year.


Long-tailed Tits fledging
Long-tailed Tits fledging 17 June 2012

During my half hour bike ride up on to the moor on saturday morning the weather grew increasingly more windy then wet but after spending so much time watching the long-tailed tit nest I really wanted to see them fledge.


Long-tailed Tits
Long-tailed Tits 15 June 2012

After the heavy rain and gales a week ago I thought that the second long-tailed tit nest I have been watching at Holne Moor had perished as there was no sign of life during brief visits to the nest. Then earlier this week I checked the nest again (11 June) and found the adults still taking in food.p.


Nesting Long-tailed Tits
Nesting Long-tailed Tits 31 May 2012

After the nest was completed in March there was a delay before egg laying took place in early April. After being incredibly tame during nest building the female who undertakes all the incubation was much shyer and would fly from the nest as I approached so I only made brief visits to check the nest. On 3 May the pair were taking small flies to the nest so the chicks must have just hatched.


Nesting Long-tailed Tits
Nesting Long-tailed Tits 29 March 2012

I found this pair of long-tailed tits finishing off the top of their domed nest in a gorse bush on the edge of Holne Moor. As usual the birds were extremely confiding whilst nest building and I was able to sketch them at close range.


Long-tailed Tits - following flocks
Long-tailed Tits - following flocks 14 February 2012

Following long-tailed tit flocks through the woods is hard work but fascinating to see where they travel during the day. I travel light with some food and water, sketchpad and watercolours. Video of roosting birds now on YouTube.


Long-tailed Tits December 2011 - January 2012
Long-tailed Tits December 2011 - January 2012 02 January 2012

The long-tailed tits have returned to the same roost sites as last year at Brook Manor. Around christmas I was amazed to find 15 roosting together in a line.


Long-tailed Tit roost in Rhododendron
Long-tailed Tit roost in Rhododendron 18 February 2011

After spending a few days roosting in a different rhododendron the 6 birds are now back in the usual roost by the lake.


Long-tailed Tit Hembury Woods
Long-tailed Tit Hembury Woods 31 January 2011

I watched this flock of 5 birds feeding high in oaks on a lovely sunny afternoon.


Long-tailed Tit roost in Rhododendron
Long-tailed Tit roost in Rhododendron 29 January 2011

The flock, now of 5 birds has been roosting in the rhododendron bush for over a week.


Longtailed Tit Winter Flocks
Longtailed Tit Winter Flocks 25 January 2011

Just before christmas I was lucky enough to see a flock of 8 long-tailed tits gathering to roost in an ivy-covered hawthorn at dusk. This is something I have been hoping to see for years so it was an ambition fulfilled.


Long-tailed Tits nest building
Long-tailed Tits nest building 25 March 2009

I first saw this pair of long-tailed tits at the end of February. They were calling and moving about a lichen covered sallow tree, then one picked up a feather for a few moments before dropping it again. They were obviously thinking about nesting in the area.