Lesser wood­pecker

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - CHRIS PACK­HAM’S PACK

Chris Pack­ham fo­cuses on the for­tunes of lesser spot­ted wood­peck­ers

This pic­ture shows what was once a quin­tes­sen­tial English scene. But old or­chards such as this one in the Malverns are an ex­ceed­ingly rare sight nowa­days, as is the lesser spot­ted wood­pecker vis­it­ing its nest­hole in a vet­eran ap­ple tree. Ella, the or­chard’s owner, farms or­gan­i­cally and likes things to look “a lit­tle on the scruffy side”. The re­sult is a ru­ral idyll that is over­flow­ing with in­ver­te­brate life – and birds.

“Vis­it­ing Ella’s place is like step­ping back in time to the 1960s,” says Ben Macdonald, a nat­u­ral­ist and re­searcher for nat­u­ral-history TV. “This sum­mer her land has hosted three call­ing cuck­oos, four pairs of red­starts and 15 pairs of spot­ted fly­catch­ers. But best of all it boasts breed­ing lesser spot­ted wood­peck­ers, which still thrive in this part of Here­ford­shire. Food is abun­dant here – cater­pil­lars ga­lore in the canopy of ma­ture oaks, sawflies and bark lice on crum­bling bark, and mayflies and crane­flies in stream­side alders. There is also plenty of dead wood, vi­tal for both feed­ing and nest sites. Fi­nally an­cient hedgerows stud­ded with oaks pro­vide habi­tat con­nec­tiv­ity, en­abling fledglings to dis­perse and oc­cupy new ter­ri­to­ries.”

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