Our amazing female Great Spotted Woodpecker - green on yellow - is back at its wintering site in Northamptonshire, 100 Km from its breeding site in Hertfordshire, for the third year!
Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the UK are thought to be largely sedentary with only a few long-distance movements reported from ringing and no suggestion of regular migrations. This summer we published a short note in British Birds (August 2017, Vol 110, 485-486)* presenting evidence of regular migration within Britain of a colour ringed Great Spot.
We had trapped and colour ringed (green on yellow) a breeding adult female at its nest in a Hertfordshire wood in May 2014 and we found it breeding in the same wood within 100m of the original site in both 2016 and 2017 (we probably missed its nest in 2015).
To our great surprise this same bird was photographed by Robert Cave in his Northamptonshire garden, 100km to the north, in November 2014 and again in January 2017 suggesting regular movement between breeding and wintering areas.
This is interesting enough in itself but on 23 December 2017, just a few days ago, we received an e-mail from Robert with a photo of the bird back in his Northamptonshire garden for yet another winter.
In previous years the bird has only been seen for a few days in mid-winter. This raises questions about how the bird is moving around outside the breeding season. Does it do rapid migrations between Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire but only visit Robert’s garden in mid-winter or does it have regular winter wanderings?
At the moment tracking devices that could provide the answers are not quite small or light enough to go on Great Spots, but it won’t be many years before will be able to answer questions like these.
*We are grateful to Roger Riddington and British Birds magazine for permission to reproduce our note 'Dispersive migration of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker between breeding and wintering sites in Britain' British Birds (August 2017, Vol 110, 485-486)
Seasons greeting and best wishes for 2018 - Ken & Linda Smith