Woodlands in Mid Ulster are reverberating with the drumming of a very welcome arrival with local birdwatchers reporting that woodpeckers have finally settled in forests at Parkanaur, Drummanor and Caledon.
There has been a flurry of excitement among bird watchers after enthusiasts reported hearing and seeing the rare bird at Parkanaur Forest Park last week.
Woodpeckers are well represented across continental Europe, but even the most widespread and cosmopolitan species, the practically ubiquitous great spotted woodpecker, was only ever recorded as a rare winter visitor to Ireland, with solitary birds turning up from Scandinavia and Northern Europe and usually in small numbers.
Mark Edgar, Mid Ulster Council’s Biodiversity Officer said: “In Mid Ulster there have been a couple of unconfirmed reports of woodpeckers in the Caledon area and several from Drum Manor Forest Park. This would tie in with their apparent movement westward.
“Parkanaur is in a direct line between Caledon and Drummanor, and it would fit that woodpeckers are now nesting there.
“A bird of woodland habitat, Ireland is at a disadvantage for attracting woodpeckers as it is the second least wooded country in Europe (after Iceland) with only a small percentage of the land area wooded.
“However, woodpeckers appear to be reasonably adaptable birds, and are overcoming this problem. As numbers and distribution across Mid Ulster starts to increase, it may not be long before someone gets a photograph of a woodpecker eating the peanuts in their garden.
“I don’t know if it’s climate change or not, but the little egret has also been spotted recently at Lough Neagh.” The woodpeckers generally use their sharp beaks to drill holes in trees, before inserting their tongues to withdraw food. Niall Hatch from Birdwatch Ireland said the arrival was an exciting development.
The bird is common across Europe and North Africa but experts have remained baffled at its absence here, until now.
In the 15 years between 1989 and 2004 there were only three confirmed reports of great spotted woodpeckers on the island of Ireland. The following three years saw a change in that pattern, with three records in 2005, six in 2006 and a further four in 2007.
All bar one of the historic Irish records occurred between September and April, with the majority falling between November and February.