Great Spotted Woodpecker

John Fenna

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Oct 7, 2006
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The Great Spooted Woodpecker is one of my favourite birds and as well as having them visit my garden they nest in the local woods where I have perm to practice my Bushcraft.
I have been watching the 'peckers in those woods for well over a decade and most years I have been able to locate the nest and watch the saga of Nest-Feeding - Fledging ... quite often they re use trees and some are visible from my permanent camp site.
But this year things are a bit unusual...
Things started off quite normal - I could hear the Male "drumming" and then later the different sound of his pecking out a new nest hole and was able to locate the tree he was drilling into, confirming I had the right tree buy the copious "sawdust" from his work at the foot of the tree.
I soon spotted the new hole, it was in the same tree that he had used the previous year but much lower. This tree has numerous Woodpecker nest holes in it, some that had been used and some that had been rejected by the female in previous nesting seasons.
I thought all was well and I would be watching the Woodpeckers using the hole I had spotted - but then the bird started drilling another hole a little above and to one side of last years hole! Not only that but he kept looking at last years hole as well.
Last years hole shows claw marks from where something (probably Grey Squirrels) had attacked the hole (after the nestlings had flown) so did not look a prime site to my eyes ... but the female obviously liked it and that was where the eggs were laid.
All seemed to go well and eventually I was watching both adults ferrying in beak-fulls of food to the quite noisy nestlings that hatched ...until the end of last week...
Since then only the female has been seen doing the food runs and although there is only about a week to go until the nestlings leave the nest - they are already so big that the adult no longer goes into the nest to feed them but just pokes their head inside, but not yet so big as to poke their heads out of the nest to grab a meal - the time between feeds is between two and five minutes.
Not only does the female seem to be working very hard but I am worried the nestlings are not getting a decent feed.
Worse still, while I was watching the nest this morning a Grey Squirrel climbed into the tree and looked into the hole next to the active nest hole while the female was away - a flurry of wings and a flash of black and white feathers and she was back and the squirrel was away off out of that tree.
I am now worried that the underfed nestlings and weakened female may not stand up to further squirrel visits and the nest may fail this year... I will be keeping a close eye on that nest!
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Male on the nest hole before the weekend

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Female on nest hole - note the ragged top edge of the hole which could be caused by squirrels!
The active hole was made and used last year, the second hole made this year is above and to the right, half hidden in the shot by some leaves.P4230005.JPG
A clearer shot of the holes from my camp - the fist hole drilled this year is hidden by the leaves lower down the tree.
 

punkrockcaveman

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Jan 28, 2017
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Enjoyed reading that John. The natural world never stops does it? I remember seeing a grey squirrel take a magpie chick last year. Incredible watching the two adult maggies try to stop the grey, they had no chance though it was off. I hope this doesn't offend you, have you thought about controlling the greys population?
 
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John Fenna

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To mess up the situation even more ... the woods are in the process of being sold (on hold for C-19) and I have not yet met the owners to be - I may lose the perm or have to pay to use or get even better access - with shooting/trapping/firewood collecting/ building perm as well - so it is all in the air at the moment. The current owner did not even tell the owners to be about me and the Bushcraft - they had a look in the woods and worriedly reported the presence of a "Hobo" living in the woods to the current owner ... who then explained.
I have no idea of their feelings about the current situation or their plans for the woods but I have the possibility of another perm a couple of miles away - just in case!
 

oldtimer

Full Member
Nature does seem cruel at times. At our place in France, we have swallows nesting on our loggia most years. They come and go seemingly oblivious to our presence and we delight in watching the procedure from nest repair to egg laying, hatching and finally fledging, A great joy is seeing the youngsters developing their flying skills.

Last year, we got as far as the almost fledging stage when the nest was raided by a bird of prey. The first time, I was able to scare it off, but the next time I wasn't so lucky and we ended up with only one successfully fledged chick. A friend who had been up on the hill behind our place pointed out that the raptor, by perching on the right tree had a perfect view down the street and had probably been biding its time until the chicks were at the biggest they were gong to get before fledging. Raptors have to eat and raise their chicks too, but it was sad to see.

I hope that without our presence this year, they will breed successfully although I fear the raptor will have free rein without deterrence from us.

Your post reminds me that although we heard the usual drumming earlier in the year from the woodpecker who regularly breeds across the river from us, neither the male nor the female have visited our bird table recently.

As to the change of ownership problem, I hope the new landholder will come to appreciates the positive effects of your presence. He should be paying you a retainer!
 

John Fenna

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I like raptors - lots of buzzards and kites around here and while I was walking the other day I saw a Tawney Owl being seen off by some song birds - love it!
I do not like bushy tailed yankee tree rats! I could cope with your swallow probs but I really feel for my 'peckers :(
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Last year we were sat out with a drink and the pied wagtails fledged from the nest under the eaves by the kitchen door. One flew over to the cherry tree just next to us and was trying to find it's balance when a sparrow hawk flew in from nowhere and plucked it off the branch - it's as good as watching lions on the Serengeti :)

Oops, edited - they were wagtails not flycatchers!
 
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bobnewboy

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Jul 2, 2014
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We've had a similar thing this year as well. Only in our case it was a nest box of 8 due-to-fledge blue tits. Mr or Mrs Spotted Woodpecker must have heard them cheeping, drilled through the front of the nest box, and, well you can guess the rest. A real shame as we had a nice little USB camera in the box and the chicks were doing really well :( . I have now re-built the box with a hardwood ply front hiding a 2mm brass plate, the replacement entry hole having been drilled through both. I do like the woodpeckers, and I suppose they have to feed their young too, but it just seemed such a shame.

On a happier note, our two 'ladies' (hen pheasants) who have made their nests in our garden both seem to have (thus far) produced healthy broods of 10 and 9 chicks. The fledglings are very cute bundles of stripy fluff, seeming mainly consisting of legs :). I'm sure there will be some predation, but we hope to see them in the garden again sometime soon.
 

John Fenna

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Good news!
Mr Squirrel never returned (he must have taken a good pecking :) ) and when I went up to the woods just after lunch I was just in time to see the last chick fly the nest!
It will be very quiet in the woods now...
Also - I have heard from the current owner of the woods that the soon to be owners are interested in joining our merry band in the woods, so it looks like I will not lose my leafy second home :)
Let's hope we get on OK :)
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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That's great news John - let's hope they like malt :)

On a sad note, we were sitting eating our lunch out in the garden an hour ago when a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past only a few metres from us with a squawking great tit chick in it's mouth :(
 
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dwardo

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Aug 30, 2006
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Cant stand the little bleeders! They wake me in the morning by drilling the tree my hammock is strapped to...and dont get me started on all the good bow wood they ruin every year sap feeding!!

:aarghh:
 
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John Fenna

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I went up the woods at 7.30 - and there was still a chick in the nest!
Either one returned to the nest - not something I have ever heard of - or one was silent for 10 mins after the next to last chick left - again , not something I have ever heard of before. Mum still calling him out of the nest and the chick being VERY vocal!
Very odd!
 
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Tengu

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Jan 10, 2006
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Sometimes they come to Dads garden and take peanuts from the holder.

They cling to the telegraph pole as they cannot perch.

But Dad counted the fledged starlings today and has decided to scale down his feeding. Hes got a whole murmuration now.
 
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