Spot­ting a suc­cess story

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

ONE of Teesside’s gar­den suc­cess sto­ries is the great spot­ted wood­pecker.

These stun­ning birds have re­alised in re­cent years that free food is on of­fer out­side our homes and are in­creas­ingly crop­ping up on our feed­ers.

This par­tic­u­lar wood­pecker has been ap­pear­ing on the feed­ers in Derek Whit­ing’s Stokesley gar­den for a few weeks.

Derek, who took the photo, says: “He cer­tainly likes peanuts and can spend as much as seven min­utes peck­ing away at the nuts. Much eas­ier than bang­ing his head against a tree.”

Derek’s wood­pecker is eas­ily iden­ti­fied as a ju­ve­nile by its fash­ion­able red head, which means it’s one of this year’s crop.

Young birds do not travel very far from their nest site. So this wood­pecker will have fledged close to Derek’s home. It will have been at­tracted by the peanuts, and also en­joys a bit of suet.

The sta­ple diet of great spot­ted wood­peck­ers is in­sects, though this wood­pecker may also have been fed one or two fledglings from smaller birds’ nests as part of his grow­ing pro­gramme.

Great spot­ted wood­pecker num­bers have dra­mat­i­cally in­creased in re­cent years which is due pri­mar­ily to the birds’ adapt­abil­ity.

They can breed any­where from sea level to 9000 feet, are happy in both conif­er­ous and de­cid­u­ous wood­land, and like vis­it­ing gar­den feed­ers!

There are sev­eral species of spot- ted wood­peck­ers in Europe, but the only other one found in Bri­tain is the lesser spot­ted.

This tiny wood­pecker is much less com­mon than its big­ger cousin and un­for­tu­nately num­bers are con­tin­u­ally drop­ping. I haven’t seen one for more than 40 years.

Green wood­peck­ers are rea­son­ably com­mon in the South. I usu­ally fit in at least one an­nual visit to my sis­ter’s house in Guild­ford, where green wood­peck­ers feed on ants on her lawn.

We do see them lo­cally, for ex­am­ple in the woods above Marske, but a green wood­pecker sight­ing is not a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence on Teesside.

From birds to but­ter­flies and I am re­lieved there is still enough flow­er­ing bud­dleia in my gar­den to ful­fil the needs of the large num­bers of pea­cocks and red ad­mi­rals which have ap­peared.

This hasn’t been a great year for but­ter­flies, cab­bage whites apart. I have seen few orange tips, not many skip­pers, no painted ladies and not even a sin­gle small cop­per.

So it’s good see a late flood of but­ter­flies in the air, even if they are the most fa­mil­iar species.

Eric would like to hear from read­ers about what they have seen. Email him at eric.pay­lor@gmail.com

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