Woodpecker Network observers and nest cameras have been in action revealing incubating adults, eggs and young.
We know of six active Lesser Spot nests. The eggs hatched in one in Devon on 7 May which was much earlier than the others which are hatching around now. We have recorded clutches of 5 and 6 eggs in two nests and birds have been observed incubating in three other nests (the nest in Norfolk at about 25 metres up a poplar tree was too high for our camera system). So, based on this sample, Lesser Spots should have young in the nest from now through to the end of May or early June.
Four young just hatched in Dartmoor nest on 7 May and (below) a clutch of 5 eggs in dead Ash in Sussex on 8 May.
Now is the easiest time to find Lesser Spot nests.
Over this period we are encouraging those of you who have not found your nests yet to search the area where you have seen displaying birds for nests with young. It is sometimes possible to get a glimpse of the adults as they fly to and from the nest and once the young are more than about a week old they make persistent begging calls in the nest which can be heard from up to 25m away. These are very similar to the begging calls made by young great spotted woodpeckers. Have a listen on….if you are not familiar with the sound.
Listening out for begging young can be a great way to find nests. Top Tip - walk slowly through the site stopping frequently and scanning around with ears cupped in hands to concentrate any sound. Ken has used this technique for many years for both great and lesser spotted woodpeckers.
For instance, yesterday in a three hour search we found five Great Spot nests in 30ha of the Sussex Wildlife Trust's Mens NR in West Sussex – sadly no Lesser Spot though. We checked the nests with the video nest camera and the Great Spot young ranged from a few days old to almost ready to fledge. Lesser Spots are likely to be at least a week behind these Great Spots.
Sadly, at four sites there seems to be no further activity even though males have excavated cavities. Other studies have found an excess of males in lesser spot populations so these unused cavities may be symptomatic of males not managing to attract a female. At Andy Sims’ well observed site in Lincoln this certainly seems to be the case where the male drummed for more than 70 days and excavated three holes but no female has been seen. At Cassiobury Park in Watford a male was still drumming in the large oaks above the carpark when we visited on 7th May, another lonely male.