Green Woodpeckers in the UK – How and where to find them.

Green woodpeckers are one of three native woodpeckers species and are one of the most common. In this video I go searching through a local grazing meadow for them and manage to film lots of other grazing meadow wildlife. This includes Muntjac, Rabbits, Blue tits, Great tits, long tailed tits, green finch and even the highly invasive Himalayan balsam.

The habitat here is mainly low grazed grass, peppered with small shrubs and a few clusters of larger trees. It is used as an area for grazing horses and there is also a herd of around 20 mixed breed cattle that have free roam. Aside from the patches of bear ground made by the horses and cattle there are also hundred, if not thousands of ant nests. Different species don’t usually get along and this orange ant has been overpowered and outnumbered by the darker ones. They will kill it, chop it into pieces and carry it beneath the ground to feed the colony.

Amongst the shrubs I can see several different species of birds taking advantage of all the invertebrates. This young blue tit is picking small insects and aphids from underneath the leaves. This young great tit seems to be trying to eat the fruit from a hawthorn berry. Through summer their diet is mainly insects but they are opportunists and eating them now will be good practice for autumn when insects become more scarce. For now, insects seem to be good enough for these long tailed tits. I even managed to catch a glimpse of a green finch far off in the trees. These have become rare in recent years and there is now a national survey to track their numbers.

I walk further into the field and realise that this habitat isn’t good just for birds and invertebrates there are mammals here too. I know for some people rabbits are a common site but this is the first one I have seen for ages. They too have been facing uncertainty over the past few years with a new disease wiping through their population. This one has spotted me and froze still hoping that I wouldn’t see it. This is one of their strategies to avoid predators, but if I approached further it would no doubt bolt into the undergrowth or a nearby burrow. I left it be and found an invasive species under a nearby tree.

Himalayan balsam is a beautiful plant that was introduced into UK gardens in the 1830s, However it soon escaped from the gardens and into the countryside where it has become one of our most damaging invasive species. The plant usually grows along river banks and water ways, but as it is so large, the largest annual plant in the country in fact, it smothers out other native species. In winter when the plant dies back it leaves the soil exposed without any vegetation and makes it very susceptible to erosion. It’s a shame that this plant is such an invasive as native invertebrates such as this common red soldier beetle seem quite fond of it and its explosive seed pods are edible and apparently very nice in curries.

I pass by this nearly dried out pond and amongst the jungle of grass spot this female muntjac. Just like the rabbit, she had seen me and froze completely still, hoping that I wouldn’t notice her. If you look just to the left of her eye you can see one of her pheromone producing facial glands. She will rub these on branches, trees and rocks to pass on information to other muntjac that are in the area.
At first I only noticed the adult woodpecker with its black facial markings and cream cheeks. But then I spotted a younger bird nearby amongst some foliage. This is a teenager that has been out of the nest for a few weeks and is on its way to independence.
The adult didn’t seem overly keen on being too close to the young bird, I wonder if this was because it could see me and wanted to keep the youngster hidden. It is pretty well camouflaged with its dull stripey green feathers. Green woodpecker are one of the three native woodpecker species and are the only one that is green in colour. They spend a lot of time on the ground and one of their main foods is ants, which might explain why this meadow is such a hot-spot for them. When the adult finally approached the youngster, I realise that maybe I wasn’t the reason it had been hesitant. The young bird seems to be trying to beg for food but the adult flares its red crest as a warning. Its almost time for this teenager to find its own territory and the adult bird looks keen for it to be on its way.

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