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12th March 2011 - Percussion Without Concussion PDF Print E-mail

I Great Spotted Woodpeckerdon't normally enjoy listening to a couple of headbangers making a racket in the woods, but if the headbangers happen to be woodpeckers then that's okay with me.

There are three resident species of woodpecker in the UK and at this time of year all are noisily trying to find a mate. The most common is the great spotted woodpecker (pictured), a distinctive black and white bird (about the size of a blackbird) with a tell tale red belly, the least common is the lesser spotted woodpecker which looks similar but is sparrow size and lacks the red belly, and there is also the green woodpecker.

Woodpeckers are renowned for their 'drumming'. They do this by reverberating their beak on a branch and producing a noise similar to you drumming you fingers on a desk (but a bit faster). Male woodpeckers do this to tell lady woodpeckers where they are and also to warn off intruders that might consider trying to muscle into their territory.

Great spotted woodpeckers make the loudest drumming – it is quite low pitched and lasts only a second or two, but carries a long way. Lesser spotted woodpecker drumming is similar but higher pitched and quieter, and the green woodpecker's attempts are frankly embarrassing; These birds prefer to make use of their distinctive 'yaffle', a loud and far carrying laughing noise.

Why don't you listen out for woodpeckers next time you are out walking?There are a number of websites where you can listen to and become familiar with all these sounds – www.rspb.org.uk is a good place to start.

Eyes open for Migrants

The first of our summer visitors should be arriving any time soon. Wheatear and sand martin are normally among the first to get here and the first sightings of these birds usually occur in early March. Keep abreast of whats happening and record the birds you have seen on the sightings page at www.gwentbirds.org.uk

Birdwatching Events

Gwent Ornithological Society have arranged some more walks and talks for the next few weeks:

On Saturday 19th March, Shropshire bird ringer Alan Heath will be visiting Goytre Village Hall (just off the A4042 Newport to Abergavenny road SO 323 406) to give an illustrated talk on bird identification - a subject that we all need a bit of help with!

Alan has a wealth of experience in this field and will be giving us an invaluable lesson in the basic principles of bird ID.

On Saturday 2nd April Chris Grady will be the guest speaker, and his talk entitled 'Birding Down Under' focusses, unsurprisingly, on the bird life of Australia.... why not come along and find out a bit more about some very unfamiliar feathery faces?

Both talks start at 7.30pm and entry, including tea and biscuits is £1.50. There is no need to book, just turn up.

If you fancy something a bit more active why not put a note in your diary for Saturday 19th March, when local birder (and old school mate) Lyn Waters will be leading a walk to Collister Pill.

This 4 hour walk starts at Undy Church (ST440 869) at 8.00am and takes in a stretch of local coastline that few people visit. Lyn knows this area like the back of his hand and is confident that some interesting birds will put in an appearance – miss it at your peril!

New faces (especially Argus readers) are always welcome at GOS events.

Walkers should remember to bring suitable clothing, food and drink – and binoculars if you have them.   

For more information visit www.gwentbirds.org.uk or give me a call on the number below. Likewise, if you want me to send you a copy of GOS's programme of walks and talks, just let me know.

Keep in Touch

Thank you to all readers that have taken the time to get in touch.

I always enjoy hearing from you and can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on 01633 866470.

Great Spotted Woodpecker