Thursday, 28 April 2011


They say that to find the love of your life, all you have to do is stop looking. It would seem the same is true of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.

I went to Sue's house yesterday to watch the (final) final of Masterchef. We were greatly looking forward to an hour of nonsensical food displayed against a canvas of wildly overdramatic music. It was a sunny, though somewhat chilly and windy afternoon, and after a bit of garden-pottering Sue suggested a short walk in the local area. We headed out along a nearby public footpath, through an orchard where Sue had a lie-down on her blanket while I went for an explore.

The orchard was full of Whitethroats, but they were not as co-operative as this lovely Willow Warbler.

Heading downhill, I reached the edge of a patch of woodland. I stood there quietly and heard the discreet tapping of a woodpecker (or Nuthatch) in feeding mode. I didn't have my binoculars with me, but searched the trees from where the sound was coming, and eventually detected movement on the shaded side of a large dead branch. Looking through the camera, the bird was tucked behind almost hidden from view but I could see the silhouetted outline of its head when it drew back for a peck.

There was nowhere I could go for a better view - too many trees in the way. I tried to take photos of the silhouetted head. From the very little I could see I thought it looked good for LSW - a small and rounded head with a relatively little bill. Then the bird flew onto a higher branch, much obscured by leaves. I pointed the camera anyway and fired. Through the viewfinder I could now see the ladder-striped back that said this was indeed an LSW.

Here's the clearest shot I got. I think that's some peeling-off bark obscuring his face. Despite rubbish photos I was over the moon. When you dip and dip a bird you can start to feel paranoid, 'will I ever see a [insert bird's name] again?' The LSW moved up this branch to become completely shrouded by leaves, then it must have flown because I heard it calling from deeper in the wood.

Continuing our walk, we headed down into the woods, meeting a few insects on the way.

I'm embarrassed to admit that this is my first 2011 Comma. It behaved in typical Comma fashion, sitting on a leaf in high alert mode and taking off to harass other passing insects.

 We were surprised (and Sue was alarmed) to see two absolutely stunning Hornets, which unfortunately disappeared before I got shots of them. Then Sue spotted another big yellow thing - this time it was a pristine female Broad-bodied Chaser which posed beautifully. Fifth Odonata species of the year.

ETA - actually, make that a male. I didn't realise that the sexes are the same colour when very freshly emerged... but after comparing lots of photos, I've decided that the shape of the anal appendages makes this a male.

On the way back home along the road, we paused to watch some fluffy lambs in a field. We weren't the only ones. This Fox looked lovely in the late afternoon sun. She was initially a bit closer but saw us and scampered off to the far side of the field.


Phil said...

Brilliant Marianne!
Nothing like the unexpected find is there.

Marianne said...

Thanks Phil :) I used to be really lucky with LSW, and then I got a camera and immediately stopped seeing them... Hope this is a sign of more to come!