Great spotted woodpeckers drumming


Great spotted woodpeckers drumming

Great spotted woodpeckers drumming is a great sound. They’ll start drumming as early as February and carry on through April. No doubt people have recorded drumming in other months too.

You can read about great spotted woodpeckers here.

Last year I went out to have a go at woodpeckers drumming. I’m not filming for a programme; it’s just me having a wildlife cameraman busman’s holiday. I found a brilliant drumming tree and a nice spot for a hide. In the end I was very frustrated and wondered why something relatively easy was proving to be so awkward.

Great spotted woodpecker male

Last year I spent many hours in that hide. The woodpeckers never drummed on that tree while I was in the hide. Sometimes I heard them drumming as I approached from afar but never while I was actually there. What do you put this down to? I think it was a matter of bad luck and I suppose I could have spent more time in the hide. Sometimes you start to wonder whether you’re doing something wrong. For a fact I know that I wasn’t deterring the birds because they frequently came to the same tree to feed. The picture above is a still frame from some of the video I shot.

This year

This year the weather has been very wet and I didn’t particularly want to film great spotted woodpeckers drumming in the rain. They look so much nicer with a bit of sunlight on them. Last week the sun decided to shine from sunrise so I went out to the same site as last year. The woodpeckers were back in the same place so I placed my camouflage net hide in exactly the same place as last year. Then all I could do was wait to see what happened.

When I’m sitting under cover I rarely look at my watch and the time just passes by. I usually find that there’s plenty to keep your mind occupied. For example, this time a male crossbill descended from the tree tops and made a heck of racket quite near to my hiding place., near enough to make a nice shot and sound. There was a male chaffinch singing constantly and the wrens were starting to wind themselves up for a season of trilling.

After a few minutes I could hear a woodpecker drumming a couple of hundred metres away, and my immediate thought was, ‘Great, I’m in the wrong place,’ Anyway, you might call it laziness, but I would call it instinct, I decided to stay put. And behold, a woodpecker landed on the tree. This time it was the female and she scuttled to the top of the tree. Like me, she could hear the male nearby, and she did something that I found surprising, and annoying. She went around the back of the tree and drummed, the female. I didn’t realise that the females drummed, and even more interesting her mate drummed in answer.

Still frustrating

I should be happy, because I filmed all of this and you can clearly hear the sounds on the shots. Unfortunately all you can see is the side of the female woodpecker’s head as it bangs against the tree, which as a shot is not good enough. When the woodpeckers moved away I changed position so that I could see the other side of the tree, but although they both came back they never drummed. As it is I’m waiting for some more sunshine, but if I know life the woodpeckers will soon stop drumming altogether and that will be that for another year!

The value of reading

Male and female woodpeckers drum. If I had read up about this first I would have known. There’s something nice about believing you have witnessed something unusual. As a wildlife cameraman I should have known better. Very rarely do any of us film absolutely unique wildlife behaviour. In a future post I will show some of the footage, but I hope that I will also be able to show a decent shot of great spotted woodpeckers drumming too.