Les Gibbon photography the thrifty magpies nest great spoted woodpecker feeding young in nest

How to spot a great spotted woodpecker nest

We are extremely lucky to have many bird species nesting in close proximity to our house, all of which I listed in an earlier blog post here. This year, a pair of great spotted woodpeckers nested in a rotten birch just a few yards from our house.

Woodpeckers literally peck the wood of a rotten tree to create a hole in the trunk big enough to brood their young. The entrance to their next is a perfectly round hole, just big enough for the parent birds to squeeze in and out of. The fact that animals can create such geometrically perfect shapes amazes me. How the hell do they make such perfect shapes? Bees and wasps create combs made up of hexagons-each exactly perfect so that they all fit together- and woodpeckers make round holes without a compass or a drill. Even with a compass and a drill I can be assured my hole would not be circular- not even close!

Finding a woodpecker nest can be quite hard to the untrained eye, but there are a couple of tell-tail signs to look out for. Woodpeckers nest in rotting trees that are still standing because the soft wood is easier to excavate. Birch trees a particular favourite because they rot quickly on the inside while the bark stays intact, allowing the tree to remain in place rather than falling to the ground. Spotting rotten trees in spring is quite easy; look for trees that have no signs of green foliage. Upon finding a rotten tree, look for that perfectly round entrance hole which can be anywhere from two meters high. If you spot one of those, you have cause to celebrate! Old nests can be discovered at any time of year, but nest in use would only be found in April-May time. At this time of year, upon finding the nest hole in a rotten tree, look at the base of the tree. Wood chippings scattered at the foot of the nest is a sure sign the nest has recently been created. I shot some footage of the next and the wood chippings below it in this Vlog.

Les Gibbon photography the thrifty magpies nest great spoted woodpecker feeding young in nest Les Gibbon photography the thrifty magpies nest great spoted woodpecker feeding young in nest

These beautiful photos were taken by our local wildlife photographer, Les Gibbon.

Getting the timing right was crucial for him to capture the young bird being fed my its parent. For several days I would keep to the bird hide tent Les put up in our garden, close to the nest, and I would wait for about 10 minutes until a parent came to the nest. Each day, I could hear the young but they weren’t popping their heads out. The noise lots would call constantly from dusk until dawn, increasing their volume whenever they were being fed. Finally, after persevering for a few days, a young bird stuck its head out of the hole when the adult female came to the nest. I called Les to let him know and he popped down the next evening to capture them on camera. And look at the results he got!

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.