Coal tit

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It wasn’t the best of day’s for photography: a dank mist hung over Stratford when R and I went in this morning to run yet more errands. But needs must, and I was lucky to capture this coal tit resting momentarily in a willow tree beside the river. They’re very active little birds and quite shy, and I don’t generally have much luck with them, but this one was working in amongst a small flock of long-tailed tits which weren’t at all concerned by my presence, and I think it’s this that got me the photo.

All the birds were flitting rapidly among the branches of the trees that line the river bank here, checking for the invertebrates and larva which are their preferred food. Every now and then a few of them would fly over my head and into one of the gardens on the other side of the lane; the wall was too high for me to see what they were doing, but because there are no trees there I’d guess they were visiting a garden feeder.

Because of their size, the winter survival of both these species is critically dependent on a good supply of food, and they both take advantage of food put out by humans; in our garden long-tailed tits seem to be especially partial to suet balls, whereas coal tits appear to prefer peanuts. According to one of my books, coal tits will cache food when it’s plentiful, and retrieve it in leaner times.