Excavating – Woodpecker style

I’ve spent the last week putting the garden to bed for the winter. I’ve swept up all the leaves, cleared paths of weeds, cut dead branches out of trees etc. A smile of satisfaction – job done… and then along comes a bird and starts opencast mining for ant eggs.


I’ve watched him (he must be a ‘He’ because only a male of the species could make this much mess) for the last two mornings, digging furiously with his beak. So far down that at times his entire head almost disappears below ground. And he’s none too tidy – the spoil from his excavations is scattered across the path in all directions. And not content with one excavation site, by the time I got round to catching him on camera through the kitchen window he had moved on to his fourth site.

We are lucky having a garden that backs onto open country, and Green Woodpeckers regularly frequent our garden. They live primarily on ants and ant eggs that they drill down for in the soil and extract with their long tongues,


They also eat other insects found in and under tree bark.


They are very wary and nervous birds, frequently pausing to scan the sky and taking flight with a characteristic noisy yak-yak-yak call.


These last three images were all taken in the summer in our garden with a 500mm Mirror Lens. If you are not familiar with Mirror Lenses then do take a look at my Post (click Here) specifically about them and their capabilities. Technical information on Mirror Lenses is at the foot of that Post.

About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
This entry was posted in Animals and Wild Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Excavating – Woodpecker style

  1. Great images Andy, and a very handsome (if messy) visitor.

  2. Jill says:

    “(he must be a ‘He’ because only a male of the species could make this much mess)” lol. even my husband laughed. nice post.

  3. The last shot is stunning! 🙂

  4. Great captures, Andy. I particularly like that last shot. 🙂

    What a busy guy! I think it’s a male, they usually have a little more intense color.

  5. oneowner says:

    I had a mirror lens years ago but traded it for a macro. Though I’ve gotten a lot of use out of the macro I miss that mirror lens. It’s remarkably sharp and I admire your bird photography skills.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Ken. I do very little bird photography but when they come to me (meaning my garden) life is a little easier. The problem of course with the Mirror Lens is that it is manual focus and a very shallow DOF too – not surprising considering it is around 750mm on a DX camera body. So getting it perfectly focussed is not easy – you are seeing the best of quite a big bunch of images here.

  6. Wow great captures Andy. I especially love the last image.

  7. poppytump says:

    How lovely to see Him 😉 this close up . Such wonderful photo opportunities if you back onto open countryside as you do Andy, but only if you are quick off the mark as you were with a bird as jittery as a Woodpecker !

  8. ehpem says:

    Very nice bird, even when employed in the pit. It is so reassuring to have the more timid birds in the garden – they seem to signal that the nearby environment is healthy.

    • LensScaper says:

      We have open country beyond the foot of our garden so we find quite a lot of unusual birds come into our garden. Sadly there is now an application to build 50 new houses beyond our wall. We are not best pleased!

      • ehpem says:

        Oh no! That is terrible. That must be nearly sufficient reason to move, if one could find a place that backs on a park or other inviolate space, which is not easy. It takes very little change to disrupt a few square blocks. We noticed it when an undeveloped small lot about 150m away from us (with several houses in between) was cleared. It must have been a very important habitat because there were a number of birds and mammals that stopped visiting, and for all I know insects too. That lot was no more than 10,000 ft2, and yet it made a lot of difference locally.

        Perhaps the new subdivision behind you could be designed with habitat conservation patches or something like that which might help. Not so much profit though …

        • LensScaper says:

          We are awaiting anxiously to see if the application to build will be approved or refused. The extraordinary thing is that the landowner is currently receiving grants to protect the ecology and the habitats within the site of the proposed development under a Stewardship Scheme. And now he wants to destroy them!

          • ehpem says:

            Planning gone to the dark side! Even if they made him pay it back, it is still wrong. Though I can see the planner’s quandry. If by accepting such grants a landowner accepts de facto protection of their land from future development, many landowners would not accept the grants or make the effort to protect the habitat.

            I sure hope that someone has the resolve to stand up to this.

  9. siskinbob says:

    On behalf of males, of all species, I should say that, according to the description on the RSPB site, the male woodpecker has a red centre to his black moustache. I just had cause to go look it up as I have had a pecker digging holes in my garden. Thanks for sharing a great set of pictures.

Comments are closed.