Keep your eyes open for a visiting marsh tit

The marsh tit at the garden feeder.
The marsh tit at the garden feeder.

Last week I wrote about the little bird which had just started coming to my garden feeders and suspected that it was a marsh tit – a bird not seen in the central Borders in recent years.

After several botched attempts, I finally managed to get some pictures to send to the local experts. I was told that it was almost definitely a marsh tit, but it was also remotely possible that it may be an even scarcer willow tit. Both birds are almost identical and even with the close up views I was getting, it still wasn’t clear.

Judging by previous records of marsh tit sites in the Borders and its feeding habits, I am convinced that is what it was.

At its peak, it was coming to my window feeder at five minute intervals and taking food away to cache.

Sadly, by last Saturday it had gone. I find it amazing that such a rare bird should choose to feed in the garden of such an avid bird watcher as myself.

It is too much of a coincidence. I tend to think that perhaps this little chap is not as rare as the experts think it is.

Could others be feeding in gardens where the owners enjoy feeding the birds but are maybe not too hot on identification and are missing them? It is similar in colouration to the smaller coal tit, but has a solid black cap unlike the coal tit’s which has a white stripe.

The picture here is not great but shows the distinguishing features. Keep your eyes open for it. Once it starts coming, it will probably return regularly for several days. I saw it feed on the peanut feeder, suet feeder, and seed trough. Let me know if you see one (e-mail:- corbie@homecall.co.uk).

During last week’s midweek “heatwave”, I ventured to the East Lothian coast – a place I haven’t visited for a few years. My first stop was the lovely beach at Gullane, which was almost deserted except for a few dog walkers.

On the water I could see a large raft of red-breasted mergansers following a shoal of fish and overhead several sandwich terns were screeching as they quartered the shoreline shallows, heads down, looking for sand eels.

Closer in was a red-throated diver, which was probably on passage and had stopped off to feed. The dunes were ablaze with the bright orange berries of sea buckthorn, which will shortly provide sustenance for the soon to arrive winter migrant birds.

At nearby North Berwick, I was most impressed by how the town had pulled its socks up since my last visit. The harbour area with the new Seabird Centre was particularly attractive and I sat for ages in the sunshine enjoying the views out to the Bass Rock with its clouds of gannets.

The streets too were cleaner and more appealing than I remembered, with lots of floral decorations and busy shops and eating places. It may have had something to do with the weather; nonetheless I will definitely be back soon.