Monday, March 21, 2005

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers

Enticed by the chance of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (one of my all-time favourite birds), I hit Woodwalton Fen NNR, Cambs, on Sunday morning (20.3.05). I followed the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few odd taps to a part of the woodland there which reminded me of the Polish forests which I have never visited – all rotting timber and moss everywhere: superb woodpecker habitat. A Great Spotted drummed just above my head, Treecreepers and Goldcrests were everywhere, but the real stars of the the show, the Lesser Spotteds, were nothing short of sensational.

Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
I had previously seen LSWs mating in north London, but I had never witnessed anything like what was going on around me. Three birds (at least) were involved. They were drumming and calling all the time, and chasing each other through the trees, doing a flamboyant 'butterfly flight', gliding and swaying in the air on fully-spread wings held in a 'V', and rocking (almost like the display flight of a Black-tailed Godwit, and also a bit like a Greenfinch). At other times they flew around making a curious 'drumming' sound (like faint hammering) with their wings in flight.
When they landed they spread their wings back and held them there, calling repeatedly. Often two birds would land side-by-side and each hold their wings out. Occasionally, one of the pair would fly off from this position and chase another interloper using the 'butterfly flight'.
I put together some sketches:

Then when I got home I checked BWP (the birdwatcher's Bible) and here this amazing behaviour was superbly illustrated (I'm afraid I pinched these pics):

This activity went on for at least half an hour. Sometimes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker (and at one time a pair) got involved and attacked a calling Lesser Spotted while it was wing-spreading. All-in-all, a very exciting morning's birding and some of the best bird behaviour I have witnessed in years.

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker
Nikon Coolpix 880 + Kowa TSN-821 + 32xW LER

1 comment:

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