Those of you who know me well will be aware that I have been trying to catch up with lesser spotted woodpecker in the UK for the last two years. As one had been sighted at East Blean Wood recently we decided to give it a go.
When we arrived there was an eerie silence which gave us a little concern, but from the car we could see blue tit and a small flock of redwing perched in a nearby tree. We got out of the car to get a better look, by which time only one was left. We took a walk to the right of the car park which we had tried earlier in the year as we knew this led to some large oak trees where we hoped to see some birds. Along the way we heard some blue tit, but the main movement was wood pigeons and gulls which caught our attention on numerous occasions.
As we moved on to another path we ended up in two groups with Sally and Irene some way behind Malcolm and myself. A bird call rang out – I thought a woodpecker but Sally thought it was more like a kestrel, we couldn’t see the owner of the call so continued on our way.
Suddenly a whistle from Sally called us back. She had just seen the lesser spotted woodpecker. Irene had seen movement in the top of a tree but then lost the bird, Sally had caught up with it just as it flew but it had the unmistakable parrellel bars on the wing. We decided to give some time and wandered around gazing at all the tree tops, we then retraced our steps back to the car park, following the direction that the bird had flown, but to no avail. So my quest continues.
We moved on to Reculver and had a picnic lunch in the shelter of the visitor centre. Then we took to the walk along the seawall. Large numbers of brent geese and mute swan were in the fields, with another 60 or so brent in the sea. A large flock of linnet and about a dozen goldfinch were feeding on the rough growth along the shingle ridge. Oystercatchers, grey plover, redshank, turnstone, dunlin, ringed plover, herring gull and the occasional great black-backed gull shared the beach and shoreline. Red breasted merganser flew across the bay, along with a couple of divers of indeterminate species.
A short-eared owl was perched on a sign post on the far side of the fields behind the path, with the telescope we had great views. A female marsh harrier was hunting along one of the reed filled ditches. As we scanned the redshank, I noticed a whiter sturdier bird with a slightly longer bill – a spotted redshank.
We continued along the seawall hoping for snow bunting, but all we disturbed were more linnet, goldfinch and several meadow pipits.
As we walked back to the car park several groups of cormorant were flying inland, presumably to roost. We counted at least 30. Although it was a grey day and the shortest of the year, we still had a great time.
P.S. I’ve just been reading about lesser spotted woodpecker on the RSPB and BTO websites. They are considered red conservation status in the UK, with a dramatic decline in numbers. The last estimate of population was in 2000 when surveys showed around 1400 to 2900 breeding pairs. This figure is considered to be a overestimate. Perhaps I need to put a bit more effort in next year!