Breeding boost

Monday 14th September 2015

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker by Stefan Johansson

Exciting news this summer was the first breeding record for a long time of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on one of Essex Wildlife Trust’s Danbury reserves (between Chelmsford and Maldon). The only chick fledged successfully.

‘Lesser Spots’ are little bigger than a sparrow, exceedingly scarce in Essex (nationally, they are of highest conservation concern) and very unobtrusive.

The birds have particular habitat requirements, relying on oak woodlands with a closed canopy to provide feeding opportunities at the tops of trees. For nesting they need dead standing woodland; Essex Wildlife Trust’s intricate woodland management plan ensures that ancient and mature trees are left to age and rot.

Where there is insufficient dead wood, we cut out a ring of bark around the base of the tree. Known as ‘ring barking’, this shortens the life of the tree and hence promotes the availability of dead wood, providing nesting habitat for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and other woodland birds at Danbury, including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

Other breeding successes this year included Bearded Tits for the first time (to the Trust’s knowledge) on Blue House Farm, North Fambridge. Elsewhere on the farm, all four Barn Owl nest boxes were occupied, for the first time ever.

The first work to create improved wetlands at Tollesbury Wick, on the Blackwater Estuary, is already reaping rewards, with increased numbers of breeding Lapwing and Redshank this year.