A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Monday, 13 April 2015

Penduline Tits at Darts Farm, Devon

The Penduline Tits down in Devon had been tempting us for a while, having been present since the 7th December last year and overwintering at the site. With the earliest reports indicating the birds were quite hard to catch up with, ranging from a number of sites from Darts Farm RSPB to Bowling Green Marsh, I had visions of just fleeting glimpses in a mass of reedbeds after hours of waiting which somewhat discouraged me from going!

With a gap in the sightings for over a week from the 14th February, the Penduline Tits reappeared again on the 23rd when they seemed to be getting seen regularly, reported each day and showing well at a regular spot in the bulrushes by the small pond to the left before the hide and the adjacent blossom trees.

We took the plunge and made the 4 hour journey down to Exeter on Friday night on the 21st March, arriving the next morning at Darts Farm slightly later than planned after hotel locks, sat nav malfunctions and road closures turned what should have been a simple 10 minute drive up the motorway in to a 40 minute trip!

Parking at the Fisherman’s Car Park just a short distance away from the main visitor centre and walking the couple of minutes down the path, we were amazed to see the birds perched up in the blossom tree as soon as we got there! Both birds flitted together and after reeling off a couple of hasty shots they were gone – alighting high in to the air and flying off with purpose – bringing back the nightmare of dipping the Bedfordshire bird over Christmas that did the very same thing around 20 minutes before we got there – and never returned!
Penduline Tit - DevonWith a reliable pattern of being seen in the morning and afternoon, we decided to wait around for the birds undoubted return, a couple of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and my first Chiffchaff of the year keeping us company in the brilliant southern sunshine. Sure enough, 2 hours or so later at around half 12 the cry went up that the pair were in the tree again, and we had great views as they flitted between the flowery branches, alternating between the trees and the bulrushes to feed up, occasionally calling to each other. 
Penduline Tit - Devon
The birds loved tucking in to the Bulrushes at the side of the small pond
Penduline Tit - Devon
They also clearly liked snaffling the blossom buds!
All fears of poor fleeting views were banished as we enjoyed watching the birds happily going about their business for over an hour – performing well for their small crowd of admirers that had gathered to watch.
Penduline Tit - Devon
Penduline Tit - Devon
It was great to see them for such a lengthy period of time, and even though I have had amazing point blank range views of a pair of Penduline Tits on a trip to Spain last April, it is always nice to see a bird in the UK.
The birds looked stunning with the blue sky backdrop
Penduline Tit - Spain
The male Penduline Tit in Spain from April last year
Penduline Tits in particular are especially difficult to catch up with, and birds are often reported briefly in huge masses of reedbeds such as at Leighton Moss and Titchwell, only to never be seen again, making them almost impossible to twitch. Indeed, one individual was ringed at Leighton Moss back in November 2011 and wasn’t seen again until February the next year, with only a further two sightings over the next 2 months!
Penduline Tit - Devon
Penduline Tit - Devon
Penduline Tit - Devon
Not managing to make the trip down for the Dungeness birds that showed well down in Kent last year, I was glad for the opportunity of another reliable pair so soon after. With originally 3, possibly more birds at the start of the winter, this dropped down to 2 females when we visited, and it now seems that they have moved on completely with no sightings at Darts Farm since Saturday the 4th April. They were briefly present the next day at Seaton on the Axe Estuary, but they haven’t been spotted since!
Penduline Tits - Devon
Both females can be seen feeding together in this shot
It would be great to see this continental visitor colonise our southern reedbeds in the future, and with warmer weather and increasing individuals seen across the south coast, it is surely only a matter of time before breeding starts to occur (if it hasn’t already!) 

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