Garden News

Tree-Climbing Birds - 15th March 2017

If you see a bird clambering up a tree trunk or upside down along a branch, it will be one of three species: a great spotted woodpecker, a nuthatch or a treecreeper. These three very different birds have several things in common: they can all be found clambering around the trunk or branches of trees such as oaks; all have stiffened tail feathers which help them climb upwards on vertical surfaces, and long toes with claws that help them climb or cling; they all scavenge for food (seeds and insects) in the crevices of bark, probing the cracks with their specially adapted bills. All three species are  quite common in mature broad-leaved woodland, and Exbury Gardens holds a good population of all three.

Great Spotted WdpckrEarly in February the woodpeckers can be heard drumming. This is their version of song, and they use it to mark out their territories. These handsome birds excavate their own nest hole and may reuse it in subsequent years. It's easy to tell the sexes apart, as only the male has the patch of scarlet on the back of the neck, as in this photograph. They lay about four to six eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. One less attractive fact about the woodpeckers is that they can (and do) predate both nest boxes or natural nests, and eat the young birds or feed them to their own fledglings.

treecreeper modTreecreepers are very small birds, speckled brown above and white below with a long, slender, down-curved bill for extracting insects and seeds from bark crevices. They look a bit like little mice as they work their way up the tree in a spiral around the trunk. Once they get to the top they fly down to the bottom of another tree rather than climbing down. Although quite common, they are rather inconspicuous and have a very high wispy song which is quite hard to notice. They nest in a cavity behind loose bark and often choose a tree such as a Wellingtonia if there are any available, as there are at Exbury.

P1060190aNuthatches are plump and agile little birds, greyish blue above and pinkish below, which can descend a tree trunk head first and hang upside down beneath a branch. They have a loud ringing call making them easy to locate, although they go quiet while nesting. They nest in holes, sometimes on the underside of a branch, or take over an old woodpecker hole, plastering mud around the entrance to reduce the size.

‘We recently had some friends from London to visit and were looking for something to entertain our young children for the day. We decided to give Exbury Gardens a try and I thought it was wonderful. We had Sunday lunch in the restaurant and the food was far superior to other local attractions so compliments to the chef. Walking through the gardens was beautiful with lots of little pathways to explore. I have lived in the Romsey area for many years and always thought Exbury was a little out of the way but it only took me 20 minutes from the motorway. We will definitely be a regular visitor from now on.’

Philip Moulds, New Forest

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