Listen out for woodpeckers
VENTURE OUT INTO WINTER WOODLANDS and you’d be forgiven for thinking that bare branches and curled bracken mark a time of inertia in nature’s calendar. However, listen carefully and you might hear the distinctive drumming of the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). It hammers on dead trees to establish its territory (rather than in search of insects as is commonly thought), its cushioned skull absorbing shockwaves in the process. The male – distinguished by a flash of scarlet on the nape of its neck – can drum up to 600 times a day and has been known to knock on weather vanes and telegraph poles. Great spotted woodpecker numbers have increased rapidly over the past 40 years and recently, for the first time, the bird was sighted across the Irish Sea. Lack of foliage at this time of year means that the sound of their hammering carries well – scan mature broad-leaf trees and conifers for the best chance to spot one.