Mike's 200 bird challenge Blog 6

One of the birds on my ‘tricky’ list, and one that is unfortunately not doing very well nationally, is the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It is a bird that I have never seen, so on Saturday 2nd March I headed off to the Wyre Forest, one of its remaining strongholds, in search of this elusive little bird.

The Wyre Forest is one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in Britain, covering over 6500 acres in South Shropshire and Worcestershire, and provides the perfect habitat for many types of birds, notably Hawfinch, Dipper, Wood Warbler, Common Crossbill, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, and all tree species of Woodpecker.

The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is much smaller than the other two species, roughly the size of a sparrow, and spends most of its time in the canopy of the tall trees, so it is easier to spot in winter and early spring before the leaves appear. I set off on the paths through the woodland heading for Dowles Brook. It was a dry morning, with occasional glimpses of sunshine, but cooler than previous days, and the woodland was quite quiet, with very little evidence of birdlife. One of the telltale signs of the presence of woodpeckers in the spring is the drumming of their beaks on the trees, which is a way of advertising their occupation of a territory, and finding a suitable mate, but unfortunately I did not hear this.

There were buzzards soaring in the thermals above the woods, mewing loudly, and two pairs of Grey Wagtails with bright yellow spring plumage catching insects by the brook, a lovely treecreeper busily creeping up the sides of a tree, then flying down to the bottom to start again, but no woodpeckers. I did catch sight of a small bird flying in a woodpecker like way between the tops of the trees on a couple of occasions, but could not get a long enough or good enough look for a positive id.

So I was frustrated by the object of my visit, but I had a lovely walk through a new area, only an hour from home, and I will definitely be visiting again, when hopefully I might be more fortunate.


Mike Bell