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Post Info TOPIC: Species in Focus - Treecreeper.

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Species in Focus - Treecreeper.

Nationally the Treecreeper is a common, if fairly thinly spread species, that is well known for its largely unassuming and sedentary nature. However, as its name might suggest it does have a certain fondness for.........trees! wink.gif The trouble is that in Greater Manchester we are not really that over-blessed with that many areas in which it can go about its inconspicuous day-to-day business. I read somewhere recently that "The North-West of England has one of the lowest levels of mature woodland in Europe". cry.gif Whilst there are many excellent projects currently taking place locally to increase our level of tree cover, it must be remembered that these initiatives will take many years to reach fruition. So for now we must look for this species not only in our remnant woodlands but also possibly in our parks that hold mature trees and in any other likely looking but possibly sub-prime habitats. nod.gif

At the time of our last atlas project - Breeding Birds in Greater Manchester or BBGM - which covered the period from 1979 to 1983, this species occupied 98 (30%) of the available tetrads and birders were able to confirm breeding in 43 of these. Treecreeper does appear to be one of the more difficult species for atlas birders to be able to confirm breeding for. nod.gif At the end of the third breeding season for our present-day atlas project only 29 (67% of the BBGM total) tetrads had received confirmed breeding records. Has the three recent prolonged and very icy winters had an effect on this species, which is known to be susceptible to the cold? Or are the reasons somewhat more mundane - that we are simply not spending enough time watching what is admittedly not considered to be the most awe-inspiring of our bird species!smile.gif

So how might we best go about increasing the level of confirmed breeding records for this species? If we do see an adult bird slowly edging its way up a tree trunk in the breeding season, let's try and have a closer look to see if it is carrying food. hungry.gif Treecreepers at all times of the year can appear to be so "self-absorbed" when they are foraging for food, that on many occasions and with a bit of patience and time, some surprisingly excellent views can be obtained. Whilst we are watching we may be fortunate enough to observe the bird, as if by magic, seemingly disappear. This may well be into its nest site, which can sometimes be situated behind a loose fold of bark on a tree trunk. The BTO Nest Record Scheme data shows that eggs are laid from early April to late May. Two broods is normal, with overlapping broods not unusual and apparently the second nest can be built and even eggs laid before the first brood has fledged! Second broods may fledge up to the end of July, although spring/summer weather patterns may have a variable effect on laying and subsequent fledging dates. Might it be that the easiest time to actually confirm breeding for this species is when the young have finally left the nest? However, the well camouflaged young can be surprisingly hard to spot, as they attempt to remain invisible from potential predators........and also those birders trying desperately to confirm breeding for a particular atlas tetrad! wink.giflaughing.gif Juveniles are cared for and fed by both parents and we may be privileged enough to see the fledged young gathered close together on a tree trunk, in what appears to be a "frozen" posture, whilst they await the return of adults bearing food.

A look at the data for the first three years of our current GM Breeding Birds Atlas project showed somewhat surprisingly there to be a total of only 8 records of adults seen carrying food (code FF) - all were logged between 10th May and 10th June. Sightings of adults with dependent fledged young (code FL) accounted for 62% of all confirmed breeding records. The total number of such records and the spread of dates for the breeding seasons 2008 to 2010 were as follows:-

5 records in 2008 between 19th June and 8th July,
7 records in 2009 between 15th May and 5th July
11 records in 2010 between 19th May and 24th July.

Additionally on the database there were two confirmed breeding records for nests with young (code NY), plus 4 records of occupied nests (code ON) - all logged between the dates 10th April and 6th July. So in summary and if we exclude a few "extreme" dates, to allow a bit of generalisation, if we don't "get" this species between mid-May and mid-July, then we're unlikely to get it at all!

So good luck in your quest to find breeding Treecreepers and please don't forget to keep one eye evileye.gif on all those other common woodland species that will also be going about their breeding activities at this time of the year. Surprisingly,disbelief.gif we do still need confirmed breeding records for many of these species, for a good number of tetrads across GM.

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