Woodpecker 5.13-1It has now become clear that the insistent purring noise deep within the nest-hole  is not made by the adult woodpeckers singing restful lullabies to the chicks. That was my vivid and homely imagination. It’s the chicks themselves!

By last night the sound had become louder – I could hear it 15 feet away from the tree. And instead of one agglomerated soft churring sound, it had become fragmented, like several very tiny contented cats being stroked simultaneously. There is a great deal of parental activity, and every morning the parents have a good clear-out of the nest. The greenery underneath is covered in debris.

I made another short recording of these new sounds last night, which I uploaded to Xeno-Canto. You can listen to the simple recording or try the Xeno-Canto one below it, which shows the first 10 seconds as a sonogram and gives more information.

RECORDING 1 (20.05.2013 – 19.00)

Woodpecker 5.13-6

RECORDING 2 (21.05.2013 – 17.00)

Another 24 hours later, the chicks are turning up the volume, and can now be heard from even further away. Here is another recording made from exactly the same distance – about 6 inches – from the nest-hole as before. Again I’ve put in a simple audio version, with a Xeno-Canto upload and sonogram below for those who might be interested. The sonogram shows the same pulsing effect, but the increased noise registered can quite easily be seen. Tomorrow I abandon the chicks for a few days, and I will report back next week. When the little birds start peeping out of the hole at the world outside, I hope to get some photos.

Chiswick, West London, England, United Kingdom

Woodpecker 5.13-9
For a simple guide to recording birds on your iPhone or whatever, and converting the result to an mp3 file, see previous post or click for direct link HERE


Woodpecker 5.13-7First, apologies to anyone who received notification of a new post and (possibly) some half-written draft gibberish… I pressed the publish button instead of preview. And not for the first time, either. So I junked the draft and am starting again.

The woodpecker nest is now a hive of activity, to mix creature habitation descriptors. I’ve kept a low profile near the tree so as not to disturb the birds. The weather has been too gloomy to bother with photos. However I did an experiment with an iPh@ne, using a method (see below) I hit upon during a birding trip in March. Some results were good enough to upload to the excellent Xeno-Canto bird sounds website. When the male and female had a nestling-duty changeover, I crept up behind the tree and held the phone up high, close to the nest-hole. The male was making the most extraordinary sound, just as if he were purring softly to his babies.

I turned the recording into an mp3, only to discover a problem uploading it direct via WordPress. So I have had to resort to the rather cumbersome Soundcloud instead, until I can add the mp3 in a more streamlined format. So here is the recording – turn your volume up a bit. Very fortunately, there was a lull in the noise from nearby road-works / building works / Police sirens / car alarms / barking dogs.

Has anyone heard anything like this, I wonder? I can’t find any reference to it online.


  • Use the Voice Memo app on an iPhone (I presume other smart phones have a similar app).
  • Once you have it onscreen, turn the phone round 180 deg and the image will swivel round too. This enables you to point the microphone in the direction of the sound, while having the controls the right way up.
  • Turn the volume up to max before you record. You may be surprised how well it works.
  • Handle the phone carefully so it doesn’t record you touching it as well.
  • The recording saves in m4p format, and you can email it to your computer direct from the app (or to anywhere else).
  • Drag / save the file onto your desktop from the email. When you open it, it will (a) play and (b) appear in your iTunes library (or whatever you use).


  • Having opened the recording, to convert the file to an mp3 (generally the preferred version for uploading elsewhere) in iTunes, go to your iTunes library and search for ‘memo’. There it is!
  • You can rename it at this stage if you wish.
  • Then go to ‘File’ on the top bar, and in the drop-down menu, near the bottom, go to ‘create new version’. It will offer you mp3 (and maybe other things, which ignore).
  • Click ‘mp3’ and a second recording file will appear in your library. That’s your mp3.
  • Drag it onto your desktop and do what you want with it.

I’m guessing here, but I suspect other smart phones with a similar voice memo app will be similar. Apologies if this is all blindingly obvious and written in the elementary computer language ‘eggy-peggy’. It took me a while to get it sorted out, and I hope the details above will help the lo-tek computer user to do this painlessly.

Woodpecker Fa