You can’t knock our wood­ies!

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

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 lanc­ uk, or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust.

●● A great spot­ted wood­pecker

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