Tuesday, 7 November 2017

A woodpecker missing a toe

Forest birding especially in autumn and winter is normally a lot of hard work with rewards being few and far between. This is because many of the forest/taiga birds occur at very low densities due to food being hard to find. This year has not been very rewarding for me with Hazel Grouse being very difficult to find and Three-toed almost impossible (I have only had one record this year and that was a heard only drumming bird), and no records (yet) of Pine Grosbeak. But forest birding can give surprises and it was on a guiding trip to see Hazel Grouse that I stumbled upon the singing Greenish Warbler in May.

I am not averse to hard work and as long as there is snow (birding on skis is for the natives) then I will keep giving the forests a go. Today was a sunny, wind free day and after swallowing some pain killers (a recurrence of a trapped nerve from this time last year is giving me grief) I headed out into Lillomarka this morning. I explored lots of good areas but couldn’t find a single grouse, only had two flyover large billed (aka Parrot) Crossbills, heard a Nutcracker but no grosbeaks or owls and had just single Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers so not exactly rewarding. As I entered an area of particularly good looking forest with old, fallen trees I heard a gentle tapping from a ‘pecker. I was certain it was Three-toed and walked up to the noise only to find a Great Spotted….. Soon after this I heard a woodpecker call and assumed it would also be a Great Spotted (for me the calls of Great Spotted and Three-toed are pretty much the same) but had to check it out, and…finally a Three-toed! It was a male which then proceeded to entertain me for an hour whilst I ate my lunch and photographed and filmed it. I struggled to see it in good light and the battery on the superzoom had run out before I did finally get to see it at head height, in good light and at only a few metres range. It was particularly fond of one tree which bore loads of evidence of the species including the rings of holes that Three-toed are famous for producing so this will hopefully be a reliable area (although I have thought that before only to never find one in the same area again).

Maridalen was particularly quiet but a late Skylark and a flock of nine flyover Mistle Thrushes were unexpected.

male Three-toed Woodpecker - they are always in dark and dingy forest making photography difficult (for me at least)

here it was dappled in sunlight

and here the shutter speed was far too low

and here I used flash and got red eye

the (only) three toes are visible 

even in silhouette they are very distinctive

in sunlight but too high up
here a male Great Spotted Woodpecker (flaggspett) landed on the same tree..

and then proceeded to attack the Three-toed 

which as can be seen here lost some feathers in the attack!

there are still only small numbers of Waxwings (sidensvans) around so far this autumn

the Whooper Swan (sangsvane) family is still in Maridalen. From my picture and other reports it looks like there are only 8 birds left. So either a youngster has recently died or this is another family that has arrived here and the local breeders have already left

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