Twite really are a lovely species - although, at first glance, unassuming, their plumage is rather beautiful up close, with striking white on the wings and tail, and the male's soft, beautiful, pinkish rump. They are the closest that the UK gets to the Crimson-winged Finches of Africa and Asia. However, as well as being very pleasant to watch, they are fascinating to study - and were, previously, very little understood. However, in early 2013, a study launched to find out more about the remaining Twite breeding in England.
Until now, this work by the English Twite monitoring project, in association with the RSPB and Natural England, has mainly comprised of colour ringing this midlands breeding population as well as some radio tagging in Derbyshire, nest recording, DNA sampling; the list goes on; this has generated lots of data about these birds. Colour ring sightings from birders have shown that this population mainly winters on the south-east coast, with some coming as far north as Lincolnshire.
Twite nest in the Pennines (Jamie Dunning)
Information from the study of this population has also shown the sorry state of affairs which the English breeding population of Twite is in, having declined 72% since 1999. This highlights how important the monitoring programme is in helping 'our' population of Twite, and keeping them from disappearing. To be able to conserve a population, you must first understand it, and this study has really expanded the knowledge of English Twite massively.
To help find out even more about our Twite and their non-breeding habits, a recent expansion of the project means that two other wintering groups are now being ringed under this study - at Spurn bird observatory and Teesmouth. The breeding areas of birds wintering here are not yet known, making this very new and exciting - it is likely that most Teesmouth Twite breed in Scotland, however there is some evidence that some birds from Spurn may spend time in the Pennines. One individual ringed at Spurn last November was then seen two weeks later in the breeding grounds! This is very interesting - it would be great to see if there is much movement between these populations.
Male Twite ringed in Teesmouth (Eric Wood)
To help make this expansion worthwhile, it would greatly help the English Twite monitoring scheme for birders to send in information from their sightings. Twite ringed at Spurn or Teesmouth have been ringed with a violet ring over metal on the left leg, along with a combination of two colours on the right. Very little is known about these populations and so any sighting is valuable - it is all new information! Of course, sightings from the other populations are still vital to this project.
A flock of Twite. The bird on the left is a north-east ringed bird (Eric Wood)
If you have seen any colour ringed Twite, or would like to find out more about the project as a whole, please contact Jamie Dunning (email@example.com), for (Teesmouth) Eric Wood (firstname.lastname@example.org) or (Spurn) Tim Jones (Timdjones10@gmail.com).