Feb 012020

Did you watch Winterwatch 2020? What was your highlight of the series? Well for me it was undoubtedly the film of the roosting treecreeper. If you missed it, the film showed a treecreeper coming to roost in a depression in the soft bark of a Giant Sequoia tree. It was also filmed waking up and leaving at dawn. Over several days the bird was filmed to show how the times of arrival and leaving varied each day. How amazing! This tiny bird pressing itself into a small depression to keep safe and warm at night. I am a great fan of the “Watches”. I never miss an episode and I always see and learn something new about nature. The series finished on Friday.

On Saturday morning I decided I would have a “quiet moment” and picked out, at random, one of my old journals to read – British Birds from 1940-41. It opened on an article with the long title of, Additional notes on the roosting habits of the treecreeper by M. and D. Rankin! The article describes their research on roosting treecreepers in Giant Sequoia in Belfast in 1938 -39. They monitored 145 holes in 16 trees and discovered that 46 holes were used for roosting by treecreepers (not all at the same time). They noted arrival and departure times, how different holes were used in different weather conditions and more. They noted that wind did not effect the choice of hole but birds chose those on the sheltered side when it rained.  The authors noted that birds would fight if two birds arrived to roost in the same hole. They even tried experiments by putting a stuffed treecreeper in a roosting hole. It was violently attacked and thrown to the ground. When a stuffed wren was placed in a roosting hole the treecreeper approached it, but then found an alternative hole nearby! What a brilliant study.

While watching the programme and when reading the article, I started wondering where treecreepers roost “normally”. After all, there are not that many Giant Sequoia trees in Britain! Then I remembered seeing a treecreeper in Shorne Country Park a few years ago that flew straight on to the trunk of a large oak and stopped still. We watched it for ages and it did not move. Sally got a photograph (but we did not want to disturb the bird, so we did not go close). I had no idea what is was doing and I had almost forgotten about seeing it. I have just looked – all the sighting got in my notebook was “treecreeper 1”. Not quite up to the standard of the Rankins. The picture data though, shows that it was taken at 15.45 on 19th December 2016. Just before dusk. Was it roosting?

Thanks to Sally for the photograph



 Posted by on 1 February 2020 at 9:57 pm

  One Response to “Roosting Treecreepers”

Comments (1)
  1. Malcolm, your post also demonstrates the value of good notes and how record shots taken with digital camera can further enhance them. I also did not appreciate where or how treecreepers roost until this series of Winterwatch.
    You did not state the date but from the photo meta-data this picture was taken on 19 December ’16, when sunset in Gravesend was at 15:51, so therefore I think it fair to conclude with our ‘new knowledge’ that this treecreeper had indeed gone to its roosting site for the night.

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