Spring is arriving fast, despite the recent run of cold, wet weather. It won’t be long before Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers switch their attentions to selecting their nest site, excavating a cavity and laying eggs. Data collected by the Lesser Spot Network over the last few years show the first eggs were laid between 20 April and 11 May with a peak around the end of April. So please keep searching for territories and signs of nest excavation.
Although this year could be a bit late, the birds will be selecting their nest site over the next couple of weeks and will increasingly focus on nest excavation.
It is normal for Lesser Spots to excavate a new cavity each year - we only have one case of birds using the same nest cavity in successive years. However, they do often go back to last years’ nest tree providing it is still standing after the winter and not too heavily decayed.
The behaviour of the birds will also change with drumming and displaying tending to be focussed on the potential nest area and eventually the birds becoming quite inconspicuous.
In any area where you have seen male and female birds calling and displaying it is worth checking dead trees and dead branches carefully for any signs of nest excavation. Have a look for small wood chips on the ground at the base of these stems and check after a week of so for any signs of more.
One factor potentially contributing to the decline of lesser spots is a shortage of females. Last year Andy Sims in Lincolnshire observed a male drumming consistently right through the breeding season without a female or nest ever being seen. Failure to find a mate could be a sign of a local population in trouble so we are interested to learn of any other cases like this.
Thanks to everyone who has sent us information so far on Lesser Spot territories. If you find a LSW territory or a nest please let us know, we treat all nest location information in confidence.