Thursday, 25 June 2009

Of Swifts and Woodpeckers

Yesterday morning when I went through to the kitchen I saw what I thought was a tatty looking Starling with a lot of white on its feathers. As I concentrated I saw the flash of red on its head and it slowly dawned on me that I was looking at a Greater Spotted Woodpecker enjoying a peanut breakfast. By the amount of red on its head it would appear to have been a juvenile. Unfortunately it spotted me as soon as I moved the camera to take a shot and it was gone in a flash. This is the first woodpecker I have seen in the garden and in fact the first I have seen for over fifty years. I am now hoping it returns so I can get a bit of video for the record.

Some days ago when I was sat in the garden watching the birds flying about I noticed a small group of Swifts. What surprised me was the height at which they were flying. A couple of times they were circling the same patch of sky, obviously taking advantage of a thermal to gain even more height.


I could only get some fuzzy shots of them as, at the height they were flying, the images were very small sections in the photo frame. I sat and watched them for about half an hour as they swooped around the sky at a fair old speed. I assume that there must be plenty of high flying insects for them to feed on.

The only other birds seen in the sky that day, apart from the local bird visitors, were a couple of seagulls heading inland.


Also spotted a couple of times at night, but still evading the camera, has been a Tawny Owl which uses the nearby telegraph poles as a perch.

No sign of the Hedgehogs for a few nights. I assume they are back on the late shift.


  1. There's so much to see from your garden! It's amazing what's out there if you make the effort to see.

  2. It has really surprised me, Mark, just how much there is to see form my own back garden. Just as well for this couch potato wildlife observer :) I think having the cameras at the ready concentrates the observation whereas in the past everything was taken for granted.

  3. I bet you were over the moon seeing that Greater Spotted Woodpecker John. Hope you get some pictures soon. I'm sure he'll return now he's found the food.
    I love watching the Swifts cruising the skies. Perfect aerobatics.

  4. Hi Keith. I certainly was. I am wondering where the woodpeckers hang out. I have never heard one but there are quite a few old trees left around the village - those the newcomers to the place haven't cut down, even when they are outside their property.
    I've often watched Swallows swooping within a few inches of the ground but not noticed the Swifts in the past.

  5. Great posting here, John. We are seeing quite a few swifts too at the moment. We also saw a GSW but it didn't land in our garden. Great photos, considering the speed at which the swifts move

  6. Well done on capturing the Swifts John - speedy birds at the best of times. As you say, it is pretty impressive the heights they achieve and wonderful to watch them.

    Good news on the Woodpecker - hope he'll be back! And a visiting Tawny Owl - how wonderful is that!!

  7. Thanks Tricia. If they had been low down it would have been near impossible to photograph the Swifts, but high up was a lot easier.
    I haven't seen Woody again but if his visits are short I could have missed him.
    I often hear the Tawny Owls, there are at least two as some nights I can hear two calling from different directions. The last sighting had me wondering as a dark cloud behind its head made it look more like a Long Eared Owl. I will have to wait for a clearer view to be sure.

  8. That's a good point about the swifts - my only attempts have led to shots of blurred, blank sky - nary a swift in frame. I think that you did really well to get any kind of photo!

  9. I know the feeling Mark. Last year I spent ages trying to photograph Swallows as they zoomed around nearby. I think I succeeded in getting a couple of blurry blobs and lots of empty sky.


Thank you for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Any comment, or correction to any information or identification I get wrong, is most welcome. John

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