Ornithologists are keeping an eye out for an intriguing bird with black and white plumage as it colonises the forests of Wexford. Anyone who spots a greater spotted woodpecker is asked to contact Birdwatch Ireland promptly with news of their sighting.
Moves to introduce the species to Ireland were abandoned several years ago after the woodpecker arrived in Wicklow under its own steam. The drumming noise created by the bird tapping on timber has become a familiar sound across large parts of the Garden County. Now the experts are waiting for the greater spotted to make its presence felt south of the line between Arklow and Carnew.
'They have made inroads in a few patches of Wexford,' reports Birdwatch's Dick Coombes, 'but it is a slow process.' He has seen one nest in the woods near Camolin but confirmed breeding sites are otherwise sparse.
It is believed that a pair of peckers may have produced young near Johnstown Castle three years ago but they have not been logged since. Juveniles were observed north of Gorey town recently, which suggests that nests are not too far away. There have also been sightings around Kildavin near Bunclody.
Over recent years, reports have been received too from Courtown and Enniscorthy about the bird which is common across continental Europe. It has also enjoyed a dramatic rise in population in Britain since Dutch elm disease provided a feast of rotting timber for the creatures on which the greater spotted preys.
Nests, usually in oaks, are located high up in holes in trees and are hard to spot. However, the distinctive drumming sound which is part of the mating ritual is expected to ring out around the woods in the month of March.
The feathers of the greater spotted are generally a mixture of black and white, though the juveniles have distinctive red heads, while the adults retain a red spot and red under feathers.
'They are a fantastic bird,' comments Dick Coombes, of Birdwatch delighted that they appear to have re-established themselves strongly in Ireland. 'It's a fantastic development and we would like Wexford watchers to get in touch if they see one.'
The greater spotted woodpecker is likely to be found in broadleaf woods and they sometimes come to bird tables or peanut feeders. The number to ring is (01) 2819878.