Sunday, 25 February 2018

Finally in the (Norwegian) bag - White-backed Pecker

 Before today White-backed Woodpecker was one of three species of regular breeder on the Norwegian mainland that I had not seen in Norway with the other 2 being Stonechat and Leaches Petrel.

Norway has a very important population of White-backed Pecker but these birds are all in the west of Norway and have eluded me the couple of times I have searched for them in prime habitat. I have however seen the species before in the Pyrenees where it is supposed to be very hard to find.

Until the 1970s there was a small population in south east Norway, but these died our possibly as a result of being out-competed by Great Spotted Wood. In Sweden there are handful of birds left which being augmented by captive bred birds but I don't think this population has much chance.

Every now and again irruptions of birds from much further east cross the Baltic and I wonder whether this is the origin of the bird I saw today as Norwegian birds do not seem prone to wandering.

The bird I saw was just 40km from Oslo and was first seen on 6 Nov, there were then a sighting on 3 Dec but nothing again until a week ago after which it seems to have settled down into a small area. Despite my dislike for, and incompetence at, twitching I decided on an early morning visit today and was so successful that I might have to try it more often. Less than 5 minutes after parking the car and wandering into the wood I heard tapping and quickly got onto the bird.

I was then able to watch it for 20 minutes as it hacked noisily at trees at varying heights. Compared to GS Wood its hacking was louder and it also seemed to attack the trees more violently with splinters flying. 

male White-backed Woodpecker (hvitryggspett) - the snow shows how close to the ground the bird was

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