Photos: Tim Melling & Brian Sumner

The Return Flight of the Twite!

Spring is a time of great excitement when we hear that the Twite are back from their winter quarters on the east and south east coast of England. In 2012 we were told of four Twite returning to their territories on Saturday 3rd March, with more following over the next week. This was 10 days earlier than in 2011!

Our South Pennines Twite over-winters on the coast in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and even Kent where they feed on the saltmarshes. This is especially strange as flocks of Twite which breed in Western Scotland fly down to over-winter in Heysham, Lancashire, but for some inexplicable reason, the Pennine Twite all travel to the east coast, which is much further than the short flight to Heysham.

Volunteers who helped the RSPB's Twite Recovery Project over the spring and summer months with both field surveys and also with bird monitoring were treated, thanks to funding from South Pennines LEADER, to training courses on both botanical surveying and also on bird monitoring.  They were thrilled to get up close and personal with 53 Twite in Heysham during February 2012 which were being ringed as part of a monitoring project.

In 2011, several of our South Pennines Twite who had been ringed in the last few years were seen both locally, and on the east coast. One adult, ringed in 2009, was found in April 2011 in a raptor nest at Horton-in-Ribblesdale in North Yorkshire, so who knows where it was going to breed!

Here are some headline facts and figures about the project (30/03/2012):

  • Overall number of holdings in agri-environment agreement (or in the process) within the South Pennines Twite study area: 38
  • Overall area covered by agreements (HLS* & ELS**): 2154 ha (826 fields)
  • Overall area in HLS agreements for hay meadow management options in project area:  98 ha.
  • Overall area reseeded to create new Twite habitat: 74.11 ha since 2010
  • Total area managed specifically for Twite feeding: 172 ha.

*Higher Level Stewardship
** Entry Level Stewardship

To achieve an increase in Twite numbers we believe that more hay meadows will need to be created. The Project has made great strides towards achieving its targets (10ha over two fields per colony) by 2013. However there is still plenty to do and to truly achieve and increase Twite numbers up to 150 pairs, many more hay meadows will be needed.  

For more information on the Twite Recovery Project plus a video to help with the tricky task of identifying this charismatic little bird, go to: RSPB's Twite recovery Project