Dave Collins Photography | Great Spotted Woodpeckers

Great Spotted Woodpeckers

August 25, 2015  •  3 Comments

Over the last month or so there’s been a notable shift in the focus of my photography. Early morning visits to dew soaked meadows in search of butterflies and dragonflies have become less frequent, with my attention shifting back to winged creatures of the avian variety. I had been venturing out with my macro lens alone, with my 300mm lens tucked up safely at home. This time of year is notoriously quiet when it comes to birds, with migration yet to kick back in and most birds seeing their last few fledglings depart the nest, hence the common shift in subjects from birds to mini-beasts. I mixed things up about a month ago though following a visit to a friend’s private site which has a resident family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos Major). Since my childhood this species has always been one that has excited me, no doubt due to their elusive nature. I recall seeing one in my gran’s garden at a young age and being enthralled as it hung from a peanut feeder, chipping away at the food held within. To this day, I still find them an exciting bird to see, more often then not as their undulating flight takes them from one tree to another.

The last few weeks have involved many hours tucked up in a hide overlooking a feeding station which has been frequented by four individual birds, three of which are juveniles. I spent a similar amount of time over the winter at a local nature reserve with this species as my main target but really struggled, mainly down to the birds being extremely timid and disappearing at the slightest sign of movement or noise. Fortunately, the site I’ve been visiting has been the polar opposite the birds very bold and rarely reacting to unexpected noises or movements, sneezing fits included.

Observing these birds at close range has given me a great insight into their behaviour, especially the younger birds. I've only seen the adults on two occasions, with the juveniles the really keen beans and the main visitors. There have been a number of occasions when two birds have been feeding at the same time and there appears to be a degree of tolerance between these though as soon as they get too close to each other they try and see the other off. There is a third juvenile which I suspect is from a different family, as every time this bird appears when one or both of the others are present, it is agressively seen off and when feeding alone is a lot more alert and nervous.

What's been a real bonus is the fact that the juvenile birds have been regular visitors allowing for plenty of photographic opportunities. This has allowed me to get a variety of images with the woodpeckers in various poses although I still feel there is a lot more potential so this is very much a work in progress update. Here are a few woodpecker images from the last few weeks:

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker

To add more variety to the location, a reflection pool is being set up on site too and this is an ongoing process. Initially, it was relatively straightforward although getting the height of the pool and distance from the hide has been a little trickier to judge. The pool went ‘live’ on the 2nd August and as expected it took a few days for the birds to get used to the set-up. However, it is now being regularly used and it could produce some fantastic images. The test images show great promise so it’s a case of being patient and hoping for the best. I plan on writing a more in-depth blog about how we went about getting this built but in the meantime here is a taster of what's to come:

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpecker

It hasn't just been Great Spotted Woodpeckers that have been taking advantage of the location. Last week, rather unexpectedly, a juvenile Green Woodpecker dropped in and spent twenty minutes or so probing the grass for nourishment. My position in the hide meant I was shooting down on this colourful bird which I would have avoided if possible but I was nonetheless delighted to have this elusive young woodpecker in front of me.

Green WoodpeckerGreen Woodpecker

Aside from the bevvy of woodpeckers, I've been enjoying frequent visits from a pair of Nuthatches. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I love these little birds and they've provided ample entertainment as usual. Their agile movement and speed is always a fun challenge but I've had a few successful moments whilst sat in the hide.


As we move closer to winter I've no doubt that the feeding station will get busier and this will hopefully result in a few more species popping in as well as a few more opportunities to get the woodpeckers in some different poses. It's been a blast so far and a refreshing reminder about just how satisfying spending time with birds can be, especially when they're as charismatic as those mentioned in this post. The butterfly season is pretty much over so I'll be spending more and more time looking for birds and have a few things in mind for the next few months, including a trip to the Isles of Scilly at the end of September for a weeks holiday. Be rude not to the camera, wouldn't it? 


Stunning images, Dave. It appears the pool is already attracting some great birds and photo opportunities.
As a newcomer into the world of birdwatching i have to say that i have thoroughly enjoyed reading your article/blog. Looking forward to the next instalment.
Phillip Cull(non-registered)
Brilliant article and set of images. Really enjoyed reading this. Its great to have a project rather than just random images! Great stuff.
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