Sunday, 31 May 2015

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers - hanging on in Kent.

Male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at nest site, (600mm lens and a good distance away). 31/5/2015
In the wind and rain a grubby looking male Lesser Spotted woodpecker returns to its nest site
First the bad news, on my Shadoxhurst woodland walks, despite many hours of  looking and listening, I've been unable so far this year to find Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. This is the first year (in fifteen or so) I've drawn a depressing blank, and it fits perfectly the national picture of a bird very much in decline and missing from large swathes of Britain.
Why Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have gone from being a fairly common bird to such a rarity and threatened with extinction is complex. My belief was that it was something to do with competition from its larger and increasingly common cousin the Great spotted woodpecker, well known for  taking the chicks of other hole nesting birds. However this idea is flawed because this breeding pair of LSW is surrounded by GS woodpecker territories and they also bred at this  same site successfully last year too.

In France, Lesser spotted woodpeckers are fairly common in woodlands. When I'm there, they seem to find me  rather than me find them. Perhaps Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers once spread east to the UK but really their healthiest populations are in a broad range across continental Europe to Asia?

Now for the good news, a big thank you to Ade Jupp at Butterfly conservation - 
because Ade has found this Kent-based breeding pair for the second year running. So far the chicks are very vocal and the birds are feeding regularly, the signs are good for a successfully fledged family of our rarest woodpecker.

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