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Well, the Autumn Equinox has passed, the days are getting shorter, the dead leaves crackle under our feet, the summer visitors are leaving, although, at long last this year on 10th September, I heard and saw some swallows and house martins, the latter coming out of their nests near Hillesley. But the Winter visitors, fieldfares, Redwings, Waxwings are arriving and there is always much wildlife to see and hear, whatever the season.

Today, I want to talk about the Green Woodpecker, a bird we can see almost anywhere in the UK all year round, with the exception of the North of Scotland and the whole of Ireland.

There are three types of woodpeckers in the UK: The green, the great spotted and the lesser spotted and I shall talk about the other two next time.

The Green Woodpecker (Picus Viridis} is 30 to 34 cms long, has a wingspan of 40 to 42 cms and weighs 1.80 kgs to2.20kgs Its lifespan is around 8 to 10 years. It is a colourful bird with dark green upperparts, a lighter green belly, red on the top of its head and a black moustache, the male, unlike the female, with a bit of red on its side. Its tail is short. The young differ in colour with a red head but a lighter plumage with dots on the upper and lower parts.

Green Woodpeckers are solitary, rather antisocial creatures; they mate in March/April and both parents incubate the eggs but continue their solitary existence after that.

The Green woodpeckers diet is mainly ants which it digs from soft, rotten wood and if on your walks you hear a slow knock, knock, knock, the odds are that it is a green woodpecker digging an ants nest, having a feast of the ants, the larvae, and eggs

The well-known characteristic of the green woodpecker is its call; it is a laughing call, I would say a mocking call, not really wanting to anthropomorphise, a sort of ‘I told you so‘ laugh. They call that sound ‘yaffling ‘

Earlier in the year, crossing the field on my way to Westridge woods, almost every morning, I heard this call although I did not always saw the bird. Recently, on Wortley Road, I heard this call again and it brought a smile.

The Green woodpecker is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as are the majority of birds in the UK, including the much maligned Starling whose only sin is sometimes to use cars as its public toilets. Perhaps, at this point, should we remind ourselves of the mess we have caused to our beautiful planet?

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to:

Intentionally Kill, injure, or disturb a protected species or take or destroy their eggs or nests while the nest is in use or being built, using traps or similar items to kill, injure or take wild birds.

Penalties that can be imposed for Criminal Offences in respect of a single bird, nest or eggs is an unlimited fine, up to six months imprisonment or both.