Meet the great spotted woodpecker!!

Okay. A few reasons for this post. One, the RSPB have been kindly sending me Press Releases for years, so I thought it was time for some pay back. Two, the press release is both informed and passionate about the subject. And, three, I think I’ve just seen one these when I was out walking this morning. He flew right across the path, and when he landed on the tree bole, seemed to walk around it so he couldn’t be seen (just as they say below). Next Saturday is ‘Feed the Birds Day‘.From the RSPB

Reported sightings of great spotted woodpeckers along the east coast of Northern Ireland – particularly in County Down – are causing a stir. Although this species is generally only a rare visitor to our shores, RSPB NI has received a number of phone calls in recent months claiming sightings of the birds.

Having seen one of these birds himself, Dr. James Robinson from RSPB NI said, ‘It’s really exciting that these birds are being seen in Northern Ireland and we are asking members of the public who find these birds in their gardens or elsewhere to let us know so we can follow their movements.’ He added, ‘We’re not sure why these birds have arrived, or whether they are here to stay, but they are being seen using bird feeders in gardens and making themselves at home.’

The great spotted woodpecker is about blackbird-sized and striking black-and-white. It has a very distinctive bouncing flight and spends most of its time clinging to tree trunks and branches, often trying to hide on the side away from the observer. Its presence is often announced by its loud call or by its distinctive spring ‘drumming’ display, the male has a distinctive red patch on the back of the head and young birds have a red crown.

In other parts of the UK, these woodpeckers are most commonly found in woodlands and parks, especially with mature broad-leaved trees, although mature conifers will support them. The birds also like large gardens, however, and will come to peanut feeders and bird tables.

Saturday, 25 October is RSPB’s ‘Feed the Birds Day’ and the RSPB NI is urging people to think about the different ways they can help wildlife in their gardens. If you would like to be one of the lucky few to spot a great spotted woodpecker, why not start thinking about how you can encourage them to visit your garden.

If you’re a little short on inspiration on how to do this, ‘Feed the Birds Day’ is part of the RSPB’s larger Homes for Wildlife initiative and, for those who register to take part, the organisation is producing an information pack full of simple advice and recommendations for all types of garden.

For further information, on events and details of how to register to take part in Homes for Wildlife, please visit the RSPB website

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty