Evidence is there in black and white

PUBLISHED: 16:22 22 June 2007 | UPDATED: 22:53 28 May 2010

I got quite a shock when I looked out of my window the other morning to see what I thought was a magpie perched on the house roof opposite. I was shocked because I thought my eyesight must be failing. It appeared to be a similar size to the starling I cou

I got quite a shock when I looked out of my window the other morning to see what I thought was a magpie perched on the house roof opposite. I was shocked because I thought my eyesight must be failing. It appeared to be a similar size to the starling I could see perched next to it, which couldn't be right for a magpie, even at the distance I was looking.

It took quite a while for the penny to drop. The black and white bird I was looking at was not a magpie at all, but a bird I have never seen perched on a house roof in my life. It was only when it took flight and headed off that I identified it. It was a great spotted woodpecker.

Quite why this woodland bird was perched up so prominently and on such an alien surface as roof tiles is beyond me. I was quite glad that my eyesight was all right after all and that I'd managed to see another piece of unusual behaviour to share with you. I also wrote about the great spotted woodpecker I'd seen hopping on the ground and mounting molehills a few weeks ago.

Perhaps, as this species is doing very well and spreading into new areas, individuals are finding themselves more and more often away from trees and starting to use new things to 'cling to' instead of the traditional trees? Great spotted woodpeckers are already telegraph pole regulars (and sometimes cause havoc by drilling through things they shouldn't) and are agile enough to use hanging bird feeders.

It is such adaptability which enables birds like the great spotted woodpecker to do so well, while others that cannot change the way they survive or the places they live seem to struggle.

On a similar subject, there has been a lot of exciting bird breeding activity around UK this year by 'adaptable' birds (in this case adapting to a new country).

Hopes have been raised for breeding attempts by purple herons for the first time and spoonbills also looking likely to nest. These birds have threatened to become regular breeders for several years now, but maybe we are finally seeing a concerted effort for them to gain a permanent foothold in our little corner of Europe.

With all the new wetlands being created in the Fens, we can look forward to familiarising ourselves with these exotic visitors soon I hope.

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