Natural History

Great Spotted Woodpecker chick
Great Spotted Woodpecker chick looks out upon the world

A walk in the park

It is spring 2020, and we are in the midst of the Covid 19 lockdown. Part of our allowed time outside is for exercise in a local park. So that is the destination, on foot, less than 10 minutes away. On one of the walks, Wendy noticed a noise coming from high up in a tree. Similar to chicks in a nest when adults are nearby with food, but continuous. No keep quiet and hide in this nest. Just pump up the volume and let the world know that you have been born and that you crave food. More food, now!

Our first photos were taken using a mobile phone, short video clips without sound as it was very windy. The wind was actually useful as it kept moving the branches and leaves out of the way. The next day the wind was less and another, longer clip, with sound this time.

The camera and tree in the park M 125719The following day we were pleased that they had not fledged as we had come equipped this time. David and I went out specifically to take photos. David, primarily on the video camera an me with my Pentax K1 and 300mm prime lens. The photos here are just a selection of the nest in the truck of the tree, of a family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

There are some other birds nearby which also get a lookin, but mainly it is about the noisy woodpeckers.The camera video and tree in the park

The chicks first, poking their heads out into the world. Having a look around before going back into the borrowed hole, and doing some more screeching.

The highlight though, was when an adult appeared, either the dad with a red back of the neck or the mum without. Food in beak ready to be shared. Not just first come first served, but distributed among the chicks.

A sequence of photos over a single sitting lasting 32 seconds suggest that there may be four chicks inside. Heads appear and sometimes food is given and other times the adult leans back, out of reach as if to say you have had your turn.


Food varied, sometimes looking like a collection of black ants, other times a white mush. On one occasion a chick was given a larger single insect, and the photo revealed a long pointed tongue of the adult, but unfortunately not sufficiently in focus to share. 

The adults mainly hunted away from the nest, but occasionally we saw that they stayed local. Presumably they had over hunted the local area and depleted the natural stock. It would soon replenish when they moved away.

Today, 30th May, on our daily visit, the tree has gone quiet. Just the rustle of leaves and the occasional creak. The nest is empty! Presumably they fledged this morning. Good luck to them, and perhaps see them again next year.

It was an enjoyable period, if somewhat short. Chatting to people, whilst maintaining social distancing. Some had already noticed the nest, some knew of them from previous years as well, and some asked what we were photographing, surprised about a nest right next to the path. Others were, and stayed oblivious, as they carried on working, on their mobile phones. The lockdown appears to have both allowed us as a society, to notice wildlife more, and given some peace to the wildlife to allow it out, and thrive with a greater presence.

Writing this sat in the back garden surrounded by bird song.

The above video clip can be see in High Def here.


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 The full video posting on YouTube










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