Last July a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) started visiting the garden and we watched as it ate peanuts from the hanging feeder and clambered about the Magnolia tree. The tree is only a few paces from the kitchen window, so we had a good opportunity to get a close look at this fine bird. As its adult plumage came in we saw that it was a female, the back of the head being black rather than with the red markings of the male Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Whether or not it’s the same bird, we can’t tell, but a male and female great spotted woodpecker have taken up residence in the old cherry tree which stands a short distance from the Magnolia. Both of them have been seen hopping about the branches, taking nuts from the feeder and drinking from the water dishes.
Evidence of nesting showed itself when I saw what looked like a patch of wood chips at the base of the cherry tree. This tree is very old and is in its autumn; bracket fungi gnarls the trunk and several branches have died back, leaving it misshapen and although it still flowers and fruits, the end can’t be far away.
Back to that patch of wood chips – looking out of the window, I could see bits of wood dropping down and landing on the grass. Later on, I went out for a closer look and saw that a very neat and round hole had been pecked out of one the dead branches and that a cavity had been hollowed out inside. At one point, I was lucky enough to hear pecking from within the branch. To confirm that the woodpeckers have taken up temporary residence was confirmed by seeing them mating in the Magnolia, twice.
To have Great Spotted Woodpecker nesting in the garden is interesting for us, but not such good news for the other birds nesting nearby. Whilst woodpeckers will peck tree bark to find insects and grubs, during the nesting season they also take young birds from their nests and either eat them then and there or feed them to their own young. It’s a bit grisly, but they’re just trying to make a living and we may get to see the young woodpeckers when they leave the nest. We’ll be keeping a watch for when they fledge in the next few weeks.