Bill told me about his woodpecker’s nest at the start of May, and I got over there right away. The hole was high up in an old willow tree beside the river, visible from the landrover parked beside the track to The Wilderness.
I spent an interesting few hours watching as the pair took turns inside the nesthole, presumably incubating the eggs. The books say that this is mostly done by the female, but this one did not seem to be carrying her weight – in fact, at the last changeover, the male seemed quite annoyed at how long she had spent enjoying herself instead of relieving him, and literally chased her into the nest hole!
Female has just arrived –
and sidles around the back of the tree and into the nesthole!
And so to today, when the chicks have hatched and are being fed – but only by the male, He arrived with food 22 times in the two hours I watched, so averaging 5.4 minutes between visits. There was no sign of the female, so perhaps she has met with an accident. Or perhaps there is more complicated biology going on – for example, is she sitting on eggs in another nest?
I noticed that, like the dippers, at the instant that the food is handed over, both parent and chick have their eyes shut.
The stone bridge across the River Alyn has a brick missing on the underside of the arch, and dippers nest in the hole every year. This year, I had spent some time trying to catch the instant when an adult hands over a beakful of insects to one of the gaping mouths protruding from the hole – it does so in flight, with no hesitation, and is gone.
I had photos of the food pass from the previous day, good enough to see that both adult and chick close their eyes at the instant their beaks meet, but I went back today to see if I could capture an improvement. As I was setting up my hide, I suddenly realised that one of the chicks was standing on a stone in the river just a couple of yards away from me. I had the opportunity of photographing it on its first day out of the nest!
The chick flew to the opposite bank, but once I was in the hide, it forgot about me, and returned to the stone, where it searched for food. I was struck by how active it was in its search, and how confident it was in its watery habitat. It even landed in shallow but fast flowing water and bathed, ducking right under.
After a while, I noticed that it was displaying, but it turned out that it’s target was another chick which had fledged.There followed an amusing interlude during which the chicks appeared to beg for food off each other!