Dec 212011

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.

East Blean Wood in Winter

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.

It went that 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.

Short-eared Owl

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.


Reculver Towers

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!


  8 Responses to “On the trail of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker!”

Comments (8)
  1. I didn’t see or even hear the lesser spotted woodpecker! The decline of this bird seems to have continued over the last few years and, along with other woodland birds, its seems likely that the decline will have been greatest in the south east. The Blean has long been good for lesser spots and most reports in Kent still come from this area. How many breeding pairs of lesser spotted woodpeckers are there in Kent?

  2. We saw a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 4th December 2011 at Canons Park (Edgware, Middx) NW London RSPB Group birdwalk. It was under observation for at least half an hour. If you are in the area contact us in advance and we could try to locate it again.
    I live in Cockfosters not far from Trent Country Park which is often good for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in early spring. Regards, Bob Husband
    R. A. (Bob) Husband, RSPB Group Leader, NW London RSPB Group (

    • Thanks Bob, I’ll take you up on that one. Unless of course I catch up with one in Kent this winter . .

    • Thanks Bob, I’ll take you up on that one. Unless of course I catch up with one in Kent this winter . .

  3. How common are the greater spotted woodpeckers? I’ve just seen one in my garden in Gravesend?

    • hello Ryan
      thanks for your question. The greater spotted woodpecker is quite common in the UK – normally found in woodlands and parks, but often turn up on people’s bird feeders if you live quite close to some trees. The Lesser Spotted is a much rarer bird, which is why our group are so keen to find them.

      The RSPB’s website has a bird guide that may be of some use: Greater Spotted Woodpecker

      • Thanks Alan, I’ve just never spotted one before so was quite suprised! I missed the sparrowhawk who visited our garden not long ago so was quite pleased I actually got to see the woodpecker! I’ll have a look at the bird guide now.