The Mysterious Case of the Confused Woodpecker

Today I have been observing the Woody family on and off. I watch from my study window and take my photos with the Canon SX60. This is a camera that struggles to produce good results above ISO200 although in good light it can pass muster. For context and fairness however this is the distance it is being asked to cover. Woodpecker Manor is on the right as the longer grass starts before the wood. You can also see one of the moth traps on the ground.untitled-2Now my first memories of woodpeckers are of Heinz Sielmann’s films, which he shot in 1954, before I was born (just). He was the pre-eminent natural history film-maker of his day, I suppose. Grainy black and white films on a TV set built by my father. 405 lines and a wait for the valves to warm up. So maybe the pocket sized SX60 is not so bad after all.

To return to my woodies, well the chicks are now just about visible as they crane their heads up for the parents to feed them with tasty, regurgitated morsels. Here is one Heinz Sielmann-era shot, which I have artificially coloured for you and there is no waiting for the blog to warm up. Get to the point, yes. Warm up, no.GW

The title of this post relates to a bizarre incident I observed this morning. I was surprised to see two different species of woodpecker on the same tree. The Green by the nest hole and rather lower down a Great Spotted.untitled-12I thought the GSW would simply fly away in a few moments so I was completely unprepared for what happened next. The GSW tried to enter the Green Woodpecker’s nest hole. The GW seemed as bemused as me by this but rapidly regained its composure and vigorously drove the GSW away. So why would the woodpecker do this? I can come up with no other explanation than it has a ‘senior moment’ and was on the wrong tree. The RSPB says “Though insects are the staple diet, tree seeds supplement this in the winter, and birds’ eggs and fledglings in the spring.” But would a GSW really try to predate Green Woodpecker chicks? I struggle to believe this, especially with the Green Woodpecker parent at the nest hole. Bizarre.

To finish off here are a few more of the Woodies today.untitled-6



It was not a ‘senior moment’. The Great Spotted Woodpecker returned but this time alighted only briefly before flying higher up the tree into the canopy. The young Greens are making a fearful din so they advertise their presence far too much.


12 thoughts on “The Mysterious Case of the Confused Woodpecker

  1. So much mystery in those bird brains. I am sure you will be quite happy…ecstatic, most likely…once you are able to unpack the big gun and shoot your birds properly. Even so, I guess 800 ain’t 1350, but the quality will most likely allow a crop to duplicate the SX60’s range.

  2. Wonderful woodies!
    Not to give up too many details on a future post of mine. . but animals want protein now and are getting it in vicious ways. I saw a 13 life squirrel attack and eat a bird! Real life National Geographic!

  3. 405 lines, warming valves, that sort of disappearing square on a just-turned-off set. And tuning it with a dial, ahh “you tell the young people of today that..”

  4. Woodpeckers might be very social creatures. Perhaps they just like to go to other nests and say ‘hello’. Or, do you think they are just being flighty, superficial and utterly unfaithful?

  5. Bizarre indeed! Fantastic you were there to photograph this and share it with us. Hope your sea freight arrives soon with your cameras!

  6. Gee I sure hope the spotted woodpecker does not ever catch the parents off guard so that the green woodpeckers babies are protected at all times. I don’t think the spotted had a senior moment at all. It was there to appear as harmless but it most likely knew there was an active nest. Birds don’t do many things randomly. At least this is my own observation and I could be totally wrong about all of that.

I'd be delighted to hear what you think

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