You can’t knock our woodies!
MY early morning dog walks always have a lovely soundtrack of tweeting, rattling and cackling of birds, but one thing that really stands out is the knocking of woodpeckers in the woods.
And the woodies are certainly not shy at this time of year, in fact the knocking seems to increase as you get near to the relevant tree. Spotting them is getting more and more difficult with leaves now adorning our trees, but if you get a flash of black, red and white it really gives you a lift.
I may be away on holiday as this column appears on your doormat. We will be in the South of Scotland in a lodge where I actually saw a woodpecker feeding on a bird table for the only time in my life. I presume many of you will have woodpeckers regularly visiting your own feeders, so write or tweet The Wildlife Trust and tell me about your experiences and send any pictures.
We have three types of woodpecker in the UK – great spotted, lesser spotted and green. I will stick to the most common today, the great spotted woodpecker.
It’s about the size of a blackbird and is blackand-white with red under its tail. Males also have a red patch at the back of their heads.
Great spotted woodpeckers nest in holes, which they dig themselves in woods, parks and gardens.
The drumming on trees is part of their breeding display as they seek mates. It’s too fast for a heartbeat but it certainly makes you quicken your pace as you get closer.
The birds use their bills to probe tree trunks for insects and larvae.
They will fire in their sticky tongues to extract the insects from their nests, and they appear on bird tables if berries and nuts are left out.
It is wonderful to see great spotted woodpeckers as they were missing from the north of England in the late 19th Century.
They started to move north and arrived in the north west halfway through last century. Now we have around one per cent of the total UK population. There is a record of around 20 pairs breeding in Knowsley Park, on Merseyside, so when you visit to see the lions keep an eye out for woodpeckers too.
Lesser spotted woodpeckers are much smaller; about the size of sparrows. They don’t have the red patch underneath but have a white ladder marking on their back.
Green woodpeckers are larger than the greater spotted woodpecker, with a bright red crown and green body. And as you wander through your local woods and hear that drumming in the higher branches you will know it’s a woodpecker dating site in full flow.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.
To become a member of the trust go to the website at lancswt.org. uk, or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
●● A great spotted woodpecker