Sunday, 6 October 2013

Marbury Woodpeckers - 3 June 2013

My first visit to Marbury for a while and after a quick tour of all my regular spots, I set off to find the Great Spotted Woodpecker nest site that I had noted on my last visit.

Not knowing if the birds had used the site, I approached cautiously but with no real expectation. That soon changed when I saw an adult bird fly over me and then, as I got closer, I began to hear the constant calls of insatiable chicks.

When I finally got hole-side, the view was amazing but I knew that I had to keep in cover so as not to spook the adults. But I soon realised that I was so conspicuous standing behind trees and the adults would see me as they came back in. So the answer was to sit down at a good distance, hood up, camera on tripod and watch the spectacle from a still and comfy position.

Soon after I settled down, the male came in with food, fed a chick and was quickly off again, leaving the chick squealing for more before withdrawing back into the nest, to be replaced by another at the opening.  A few minutes later the female arrived with food, fed and departed. Soon the male was back feeding, then the male again, and again! I quickly noticed the pattern of the male feeding five or six times between each visit by the female. Maybe the female was busy feeding herself back up after the exertions of egg laying, or maybe the male had found a rich supply of food.

I wondered how many chicks there were and also, with room for only one a time at the dining table, were they all being fed? I studied them closely through the scope and noticed a few differences in cap markings or colouring, very subtle but enough to know that there was some rotation going on. I got to know 4 or 5 of them but as for the exact number I'm not sure.

As the heat increased in the afternoon, the chicks began to show signs of panting and soon withdrew to the shade of the interior. The relieved male stayed on guard nearby and the female, well I hadn't seen her for over an hour.

I returned a couple of times with PK, hoping to see the chicks fledge but I missed them going. I was just happy to know that they had.

The male brings in another tasty tree grub...

... and finally takes a breather on guard duty.