Saturday, 24 May 2014

Woodpecker rescue

Normally I wouldn't advise 'rescuing' young birds from the wild.  In a previous job I worked closely with animals and used to get people bringing me wildlife that they had helpfully 'rescued-from-certain-life'.  The most memorable was someone who 'rescued' a baby deer, found in a field, and thought it really needed bringing to the vets... Its parents were likely in the vicinity, and if left alone would have gone to them.  The best thing to do in that sort of situation is to leave them alone, see the sensible advice here.

Nature - Tooth-and-Claw
So back to this today.... Early this morning, there was a sudden racket outside the house, the sort of noise you might get if you repeatedly step on a piglet.  A quick glance outside identified a magpie pinning down a small bird.  Its likely lunch-time-snack making all the noise.

This is where my normal perspective of 'leave-nature-alone' diverged from what I might have done, had the stood-upon bird been a common species...  Close examination showed that squawking bird to be a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, so disregarding my normal principles, I rushed out and 'rescued' it.  I think what had happened was that a young, newly fledged woodpecker had been caught out in the pouring rain, been unable to fly and had been caught by the Magpie.

Magpies have every right to a meal, but my abstract logic considered the relatively common magpie vs the less common woodpecker, which clinched the deal - to the advantage of the woodpecker!.

Our rescued woodpecker (imaginatively now named 'Woodie' by the kids) was limp, soaked through and bloody. My assumption was that it was not long for this world, so I brought it in and put in in a quiet place in a quiet spot in the garage in a cardboard box over a heat-mat.

Having assumed that it was likely to die, I did feel a little sorry for the magpie, who would have to find some other fledgling to eat today.  I was also a bit concerned that if it survived for a few days I may have been in the following situation, and didn't relish the prospect of hand feeding it...

Not a desirable outcome!

Disappearing, reappearing woodpecker
Later in the day I popped back into the garage to check on it, to find that the (closed) cardboard box was empty.   My first thought was that my son had become the proud owner of a dead Woodie, to be found somewhere in the house later as a 'special surprise' for me... this turned out not to be the case, as I found it flapping about in rafters of the garage.  After opening the garage door it flew off as if nothing had happened.

'Woodie' the woodpecker in the rafters

Woodie will hopefully live to fight another day...

1 comment:

  1. It's strange how we have favourites when it comes to garden birds. I don't think we had seen a greater spotted woodpecker in our garden up until 9 or 10 years ago. And now they queue up like the planes over Heathrow to devour our peanuts, except they don't tolerate each other at all. Magpies seem abundant, and are probably aided by the thousands of miles of roads we have in this country, producing tons of road kill. So missing out on one skinny woodpecker probably won't do them any harm at all.