This male Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) is entertaining the crowds at the RSPB’s Uskmouth Nature Reserve, near Newport, at the moment, feeding on dead flowerheads of Bulrush (Typha latifolia), right by the reserve’s visitor centre.
Eurasian Penduline Tit (to give it its full English name, as there are about nine other species in Asia and Africa) is one of several bird species which have spread northwest from eastern Europe in recent decades. The first British record was in the 1960s, at Spurn, the famous migration watchpoint in Yorkshire, but now almost 300 have occurred here, including several small flocks. There has long been speculation that Penduline Tits might colonise southeast England, but so far it hasn’t happened – and we can say this with a fair amount of certainty as the nest is a conspicuous pouch which is constructed hanging from a tree branch above or close to water, and one of these would surely have been noticed considering how well-watched Britain’s wetlands are.
The Uskmouth bird can be identified as a male by its large black mask, with a rusty bar across the forehead, whitish head, intense chestnut upperparts, and small reddish-brown breast-streaks. Females have a narrow face-mask, pale grey head, paler upperparts and plain underparts, and juveniles have a completely plain pale brown head.
Uskmouth’s bird is the first for Gwent, but there have been several on this side of the estuary (see below), and with the trend towards increasing numbers, plenty more can be expected.
- Westhay Moor, two birds from January to March 1997
- Berrow reedbed, three birds in December 1997 and February 1998
- Shapwick Heath, two birds in December 1999
- Ham Wall, four birds in January 2004
- Portbury Wharf, two birds in January 2012
Uskmouth reserve is just west of the small village of Nash, east of the river Usk, south of Newport, and is signposted from junction 24 of the M4 motorway.