Sale Water Park to be managed for one of the UK’s most threatened resident birds

Bird in tree

A home for the willow tit

Willow tits by Peter Smith

Willow tits by Peter Smith

The Greater Manchester Environment Fund (GMEF) has been successful with a bid to Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF), which will support environmental NGOs to deliver key nature recovery projects. These projects will help to achieve key results against the Greater Manchester Local Nature Recovery Network Strategy. 

As part of the successful bid, a partnership between City of Trees and The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) will manage and restore a young Community Forest plantation in Sale Water Park, Trafford, for the benefit of people and breeding birds included the red-listed willow tit.

Sale Water Park’s deciduous woodland supports breeding pairs of willow tit – a red-listed species and a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Willow tit numbers have fallen 94% since 1970s. The 1984 atlas of Breeding Birds in Greater Manchester estimated the GM population at 300 pairs, However, the latest survey in 2016 estimates there are now only 120 breeding pairs. Willow tits require damp, young woodland with deadwood nesting opportunities. Without this project the habitat at Sale Water Park, the area will become unsuitable for willow tits as the woodland matures and the habitat continues to become drier. 

The project will focus on varying the age and species structure of trees and shrubs within the woods and planting to increase abundance and variety of herb and shrub layer species within the wood. Creation of resting and standing deadwood will benefit various Red and Amber list bird species associated with woods in Greater Manchester.

TCV will also use the conservation story of the willow tit to engage volunteers and people with additional needs, increasing their health and wellbeing through participation in practical outdoor activities.

Greater Manchester needs to protect and nurture it’s increasing endangered wildlife.  The Greater Manchester Ecology Unit has highlighted 13 red and amber-listed bird species associated with woodlands that will benefit from this woodland management at Sale Water Park.

Through the use of improved signage, paths, maps and online maps/information, the funding will help to take a disconnected suite of woodlands and allow people to make the connection that they are part of coherent landscape scale ecological corridor, which they are now able to navigate through.

This project is needed as Trafford Council do not currently have the resources to provide the one-off impetus that this project would provide. These maturing plantation and naturally regenerating woodland require thinning and diversification in order to stop them becoming dominated by a few species and being overrun with invasive non-native species.