Now is the time to get out into the woods and find Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.
They are at their most conspicuous now (March and April) and are easily audible and visible (as there are no leaves on the trees). We (LesserSpotNet) have already had lots of reports of birds displaying, calling and drumming. So now is a great time for you to check suitable woodland for the presence of Lesser Spots and keep a record. During the winter their home range can be huge, hundreds of hectares, but in a few weeks, they will settle down in favoured nesting area. Still a big area but is much smaller than their winter range.
Please help with the Lesser Spot Network project this year.
Update - As of 26 March - the COVID-19 restrictions came into force with severe limits on going out. However if you are lucky enough to see or hear a Lesser Spot on your daily walk/cycle ride or as part of your work, please note the details and let us know.
Thank you to everyone who has sent records to us this spring and to everyone who has supported our lesser spotted woodpecker initiative over the last five years. Thanks to all your efforts we have been able to collect good data on nesting success from over 60 nests between 2015 and 2019 and we have been able to raise the profile of this enigmatic species.
The annual reports for the last five years are all available on our website (top right column on this newspage). We still need your help in gathering more data, so in 2020 we are planning more of the same – trying to find as many lesser spotted woodpecker nests as possible and trying to ensure that observers monitor the nests to find if young are successfully raised.
We have three nest inspection camera systems available for loan to LesserSpotNet volunteers, if appropriate (details here). These enable us to determine the number of eggs laid and number of chicks fledged which is vital to understanding the problems facing Lesser Spots.
We are asking LesserSpotNet volunteers to walk the woods in March and early April and record presence of Lesser Spots, then go back in May to try to find the nest.
If you find the birds excavating a nest in April/early May that is brilliant, but if not go back in May.
From our experience of the over 60 nesting sites reported to LesserSpotNet, the common factors seem to be, damp woodland with some dead/dying trees. In the past few years the most common tree species used for nesting have been Alder, Poplar, Birch, Willow, and Ash, with occasional Apple, Holly and Oak.
LSW always nest in a dead tree or a dead branch on a living tree. Last year almost all the nests were within 10m of a stream or pond, so this seems important. Lots more tips on finding lessers here.
Listen out for them drumming. A very good example of Lesser Spot drumming on dead wood is in this video from Alan Shaw from Derbyshire, note the drumming is softer and flatter than a Great Spot and lacks the flourish at the end
In the New Forest, which has a healthy population of Lesser Spots, (12 nests found last year) Rob Clements, with a team of volunteers, will be walking along the streams in suitable areas of the forest in March noting any Lesser Spot sightings. This will give them a good estimate of the number of territories and lead to the discovery of nests later on. This is a great idea and we encourage everyone to go out and do the same in your area.
Some observers are reluctant to report Lesser Spots to us for fear of the sites becoming subject to excessive disturbance. We are quite clear that we respect the wishes of observers when it comes to site confidentiality and we don’t reveal site details on this website.
At this time of year observing the birds feeding or moving through the woods is unlikely to cause disturbance. Having searched for and found many lesser spotted woodpecker nests over the years we don’t think regular walking through the woods checking for signs of nesting causes any significant disturbance.
Clearly once the birds have chosen a nest site and are excavating or feeding young, observers should keep their distance. But interestingly we have noted frequently over the last few years that Lesser Spots often place their nests in very public and busy places – a north London park and a heavily used picnic site on a cycle path come to mind – so we do wonder how sensitive to disturbance they really are. We urge all observers to exercise common sense and give the birds the space and time to get on with their nesting attempt.
Please send any sightings through to LesserSpotNet and/or your County Recorder.
Don’t feel under any pressure to take a photo, the record of your sighting is what we need.
Our project is supported by the UK Rare Breeding Birds Panel.