Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What did I do in May? (Part 2)

I did spend some time trying to find the great spotted woodpeckers'nest. I had been looking for their new nest for a while, but without result. As it happens, I was looking in the wrong place...
On 13th May, I was awaken shortly before 6 by a call I had not heard in the back gardens for a long time. I quickly got up and checked: yes, a woodpecker was on the suet cake feeder on the balcony. Considering last year they had only visited when feeding their chicks, I think it is fair to assume that their chick(s) had hatched, which means that they should fledge about now.
After that first visit, at least the male became a daily visitor, initially only to the fat feeder, but then it discovered there were mealworms on offer... It initially couldn't figure out the feeder, but would take some from the dishes I also leave for them, one under the feeder and one on our bathroom window sill. The following 2 photos were taken on 27th May (through the window) and as you can see the hard work has been taking its toll, it was looking rather bedraggled (though still quite handsome imo):

(I have seen it take up to 10 at once)

Then a few days ago, it finally figured out how to get mealworms out of the feeder. Initially, only from the left hand side, but then also from the right hand side like on the photo below:

It is quite comical at times watching it as it often drops a few on a window sill below, to the delights of the tits who pick them up while their access to the feeder is blocked! [though I have seen one at least lose patience and get in on the other side]

Now, the nest. Since we could hear the chicks from a fair distance away last year I thought that I'd find it by listening carefully. I looked in the most remote parts, where I had seen them calling, getting insects (at one point I spotted the male pecking at the ground, which looked odd until I looked more closely once it had gone: it was an old tree stump), drumming... Nothing. Then, on 24th, a neighbour mentioned that she'd heard a strange call, repetitive, sounding like the woodpecker chicks last year while passing in the cemetery. In a spot I had not really checked as it is in a rather busy area. But almost as soon as I got there, the male arrived with food and 'directed' me the nest. No wonder I had not found it by sound, I had to be right in line with it to hear anything, and the hole being quite high, and probably the chicks quite low down, the sound was, albeit unmistakable, quite faint.

As of this lunchtime, the chick(s) was/were still in the nest; I managed to catch one just as Dad arrived with food:


  1. Wow! A Woodpecker in the garden, I would so much like to have them in mine and your photos are lovely. The poor thing does look dishevelled, I have noticed that with the Tits. They are all working so hard at the moment.

    I have one of those feeders too and find if I have the dome open too much it is dominated by Starlings but if I close it enough to stop them then hardly any other birds bother with it. So I can see why you use the chicken wire.

  2. It is looking a bit dapper now... I think what happened is that it was feeding peanut/suet cake to his youngsters and it mist have rubbed against the sides of the hole and/or nest and then rubbed onto him. A sort of hair gel for GSWs...

    Starlings haven't bothered much with the mealworms this year, thankfully, but they demolish a peanut/suet cake block in a day, while squabbling very loudly...