Two avian excitements today. Firstly, the swifts timed their return to coincide with some morning sunshine. A flock of 10 milled around overhead with their unmistakable cries. They flew very high, fast-moving specks in a blue sky. As I was watching them, I noticed increased activity at the woodpeckers’ nest. The pair were changing egg-sitting duty  more frequently. As I slowly edged my way nearer the hole, I could hear very faint cheeping from deep inside the tree – new hatchlings. I’ve remembered that this presages increasingly loud and insistent noise over the next 2 or 3 weeks until the fledglings fly. 

THE MALE GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERWoodpecker 5.13-1 Woodpecker 5.13-2 Woodpecker 5.13-3Woodpecker 5.13-9

The birds have a rather touching takeover ritual. The bird returning to relieve its partner lands close to the hole, and makes a quiet, rapid 3 or 4 note clucking noise. The other bird appears at the hole, looks around, and flies straight off, while the other takes its place inside the tree. The male clearly has a big appetite. Occasionally he leaves the hole and forages briefly in the gnarly bark close to the entrance for insects or grubs, then returns to the hole. As he enters – and despite his mouthful – he makes a soft staccato 3 or 4 note call to the occupants, distinctly different from the parents’ greeting to each other.

THE FEMALE GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERWoodpecker 5.13-4Woodpecker 5.13-5Woodpecker 5.13-6Woodpecker 5.13-8 


  1. Those are great photographs and very interesting observations. It makes them much more endearing when you pick up on their secret habits. I wonder whether you will see little heads poke out of the hole eventually, like you do with martins’ nests?


    1. I watched them on and off this morning. The gentle communications were remarkable. At one stage I hid in some shrubs near the tree – hence the closer shots of the male. But he sussed me, as one of the photos shows. So I left them to it – it’s our tree, but their home!


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