Wednesday, March 7, 2007

"Flocks" of Woodpeckers

I took a UK birder, Andrew, up into the Buda Hills this morning. My brief was to take him to places "where we might see some non-UK woodpeckers". No pressure, nothing, just a "relaxing day's birding". But he did want to see Grey-headed Woodpecker. By 9am we were watching a female Lesser Spotted drumming. A little deeper into the woods and by 10am we had heard a couple of Green Woodpeckers "yaffling" and seen two male Great Spotteds in dispute, flying around, calling, bill pointing. We must have heard about 6 other Great Spotteds drumming, too. It was as if an army band was in there. Then a Middle Spotted Woodpecker made its cat-like, almost painful call and we soon found it. The first of five. After a bit of calling (yours truly this time) a Black Woodpecker, a female, finally responded. A male soon joined her and we watched them feeding on a fallen log. Of course, our "target" was not playing the game, it's often like that. As in life, the one you want most, won't play. So off we went to another Grey-headed spot, seeing another Black on the way, hacking a tree to pieces. But nothing new there. So another site, 2 miles down the hill. I made a few calls. Something responded, not near, but near enough, so we walked towards it. There were new Black Woodpecker holes here, and lots of old ones. Finally, in she flew, silenty, but she was curious. The female Grey-headed sat cross-wise on a bough and Andrew got his "lifer". He was pretty cool about it. Then she flew over out heads and sat atop a broken pine tree. They are always better after a bit of hard work.

What now? It was only midday. "What about Syrian?". I had a little think. Then down into the city and a park. All kinds of noise here. Cars, a bus, workers, dog-walkers, kids... a typical urban Syrian site. I heard a brief call. A Syrian. Then a Great Spotted. They live together hear. Finally, a woody flew by, but it was the Great Spotted. We walked to some chestnut trees. And there it was, a male Syrian. A brief view, but a good view. Andrew said he never expected "flocks" of woodpeckers. It was 12.30.

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