Oh my… a Great Spotted Woodpecker pops by!

Yesterday’s late breakfast companion took me completely by surprise. Wow… this is a species I have never expected to visit my garden. Fortunately, whilst preparing breakfast in my kitchen, I paused to look out the window en route to the fridge and spotted the male Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding from a peanut feeder. I can’t deny I got a tad excited and ran for a camera!

My photos aren’t as clear as they might be due to the window angle from my kitchen window but I do have a record of this visit so I’m delighted. This fine looking bird is a male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Looking up my first (and still) favourite RSPB BIRDFEEDER GUIDE, I see that Great Spotted Woodpeckers will take suet and peanuts from garden feeders and my photo above is an example of that. I had a few fat balls in a little cage – I wonder if he fed from there too. I also wonder if yesterday was his first visit to my garden.

Being aware, that Great Spotted Woodpecker can raid nest boxes to eat the eggs and young I did consider if I should really be pleased that it has found its way to my garden. Then again, I may never see it again and it could have just passed through.

Reading through the profile page of this bird in my book, I see that outside the breeding season Great Spotted Woodpeckers live solitary lives and it is unlikely that I will see more than one at my feeders at any one time – that is should it return at all.

Trying to capture photos and video of the Great Spotted Woodpecker on visits to SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes has always been fun and a challenge. At the visitor centre observation window, we would watch the Woodpeckers favour (non salted) peanut butter which staff would press into cracks on tree bark.

Having bought a tub of this peanut butter from the shop, I have experimented with it at my garden feeders by pressing the butter into pine cones which I jammed into spaces on tree branches. I also scattered some cones on the ground for blackbirds, robins and any other birds that might try it. I usually did this in winter however…

Not being able to resist a new bird feeding challenge, that might bring back the woodpecker, I cut a piece of log post to a size I could jam into a spot on my homemade feeder tree. I took a chisel and hammer and cut a good grove into the post. As you can see in the photo above, I pressed the peanut butter into the grove and decorated it with whole peanuts.

Birds can take a while to explore a new feeder, especially if they don’t recognise it as food – hence the whole peanuts. Now, I do expect Blue, Coal and Great tits to be interested in the whole peanuts and when they remove them they’ll get a taste for the peanut butter. I’ve seen these birds, Robins and Chaffinches all enjoy the peanut butter at Loch of the Lowes. I’ve seen Blue tits and Starlings enjoy the peanut butter in my garden in previous winters.

This is the part of gardenwatching that I really do enjoy. If you build it they will come… but who will the ‘they’ be that is the fun part. If I end up getting a regular Great Spotted Woodpecker visit my garden and it becomes a bit aggressive towards the other birds I’ll just change my feeding regime. I’ll also add the little metal plate at the entrance to my camera nestbox to deter any raids come nesting season.

So, when I can, I will now keep an eye out for any return visits by the Great Spotted Woodpecker to my garden for photo and video opportunities too. I’m also very keen to see who is first to try out the peanut butter in this new location. Roll on breakfast time 😉

For those that missed my post back in July with images of a Great Spotted Woodpecker family seen from the observation window at Loch of the Lowes (note they are on Winter Opening of Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only just now) you can see them here. What a delight this was to see, we had never seen juveniles or Mum feed them before. Oh… let’s add the video here too 😉 You can see that the female doesn’t have the crimson nape and the juvenile has a red crown. Enjoy…

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in October 2012.

12 thoughts on “Oh my… a Great Spotted Woodpecker pops by!

  1. It is such a thrill to get a new bird in the garden. What a handsome woodpecker he is. Lucky you.

    We have been watching for Pine Siskins to show up at our feeders. They don't come around often but it is usually this time of year when they show up.

    Happy Feeder Watching.

  2. We have had a gsw a couple of times in our garden but it isn't a regular visitor – the last time it was feeding on the container filled with fat balls.

    A warden at a local RSPB reserves told us that to get at nestlings a gws will peck a hole in the base of a nesting box as this allows them to grab the babies easier.

  3. Oh how exciting Shirl – how fortunate that you looked up from your breakfast preparations when you did. Hope that the toast didn't burn 🙂

  4. I smiled when I saw yo9ur post. We are having big problems with a woodpecker; it is trying to make a nest or at least a home for the winter in the side of our house! The terrace has been covered with pieces of tuffo (the stone from which the house is built) and the cement that holds it together. My husband has filled in the large hole but the bird has been back experimenting in other positions. Added to which it has made huge holes in the shutters of an upstairs window – these will be expensive to repair – so all in all woodpeckers aren’t my favourite bird at present. Christina

  5. A lovely visitor to have Shirl, great captures too. I have seen them in my garden on the odd occasion but not as a regular occurrence. I missed a photo of one on the birdbath which would have been nice 🙁

    Hope you are well. Have a good weekend and I hope there is no snow there yet.

  6. My sister gets the green woodpeckers into her garden quite regularly. I was surprised how big they are and actually how loud they can be. Never seen this fellow though.

  7. Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments 🙂

    Lisa, I did feel lucky (haven’t seen him since though) and he was handsome! I do hope you get to see the Pine Siskins if they pop by 😀

    Sue, this seems to be the case that the Woodpecker will just make an appearance every now and again. Now, I was aware that the gsw could go for other lower areas of the nestbox to get at eggs and chicks and I was considering that if I should see it return (which I haven’t so far) and it becomes a regular, we could add a second lining in our nestbox that has a cam. I’ve seen pics on other blogs of the destruction the gsw can cause and wouldn’t like to see that here :-0

    John, it was a brilliant moment and I was so lucky to be looking out the window at the time. Mixed feelings on a regular gsw but can’t deny I would love to see them again.

    Bren, it was an exciting sighting! Thanks, I’d love the chance to get better shots if the gsw returned 🙂

    Anna, Absolutely to both!!

    Christina, oh dear… seeing that powerful beak the gsw has I am not surprised at all they could be a problem in areas they are not welcome. Oh dear… sounds like you have a destructive pest there – what a shame.

    Mike, the gsw definitely felt like a special garden visitor. Hope you are well and have been out with your camera this year 🙂

    Jan, thanks, it seems like I’m not likely to see too many visits of the gsw in my garden by what everyone says. Oh… I would have been gutted not to capture a birdbath pic/video of the gsw! Thanks, I am fine, we had a good weekend and although the snow flirted with us on a couple of occasions it never landed… phew for a little while longer!!

    Suzie, oh… the green woodpeckers look quite stunning to me. I’ve seen blog photos of it on the ground in longish grass. It looked quite special to me. I do hope your sister enjoys her woodpecker visits.

    Andrew, good luck with your venture.

  8. We get GSW regularly – mostly the male but a female shows up occasionally – never together though. Tends to enjoy the fat balls more than anything else. Never thought to put out peanut butter – I will give it a try and let you know the results.

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