This blog post originally appeared on Peter's 'Fresh from the Field' blog on 23rd November 2015.
Once you have lived in a village for a good while – 25 years in my case – a number of local folk get to know you and also what you particular passion is. We are blessed with experts on UK local breweries, old planes, vintage cars, metal detecting, botany and countless other interests!
A visit to the Flower Pots pub will without fail teach you a little something, even if it is only that you cannot down as many pints as you used to, without feeling a little jaded the next day!
Over the years, helped along by writing a little wildlife piece in the parish magazine each month, people have learnt about my passion for “all things countryside”, and so come up to me to tell me of their sightings and snippets of interest, which is wonderful as it keeps me informed with what is happening locally.
They also send me an array of varying quality photos of thing to be identified! A Chinese painted Quail pecking around under someone’s bird table, is the best so far I think!
So I was not that surprised when the phone rang this morning and good friend Annie Bishop started off by saying “hi Pete – this is going to be one of the stranger calls you will receive today!” She went on to tell me that a black and white woodpecker was hanging up-side-down from a nest box on the neighbour’s house, held tightly by a thick strand of sheep wool!
“I’ll come round, get the ladder out and a pair of scissors!”
Well to cut a long story short, we managed to cut the unfortunate male Great-spotted woodpecker free and take it into the kitchen, were Greg, Annie’s husband discovered that he could easily have been a Vet rather than a Maths teacher!
The Sheep's wool was well and truly tangled around the unfortunate bird's legs. The small red patch on the back of the head tells you that this is a male bird, as the female lacks this.
He very carefully and expertly snipped away at the entwined mass of wool that was well and truly wrapped around both feet, while I held the bird and stoically took the frequent sharp jabs from the indignant bird’s extremely sharp beak!
The lady who lives next door, loves the wildlife that visits her garden, so she not only feeds them assorted food, but also puts out a large hanger full of wool for birds to gather when making their nests. Obviously quite a lot of this had found its way into the nest box, high up on the wall.
I expect this particular inquisitive guy had explored the box to find spiders and hibernating insects and in the process had got himself in a bit of a tangle – literally!
The neighbour was of course mortified that this had happened and was incredibly grateful that Annie had spotted the unfortunate bird, as it would surely have died a miserable death if she had not been so eagle eyed while putting on the kettle for the early morning cuppa.
Eventually, after a good quarter of an hour or so, the bird’s feet were free and so we took it out into the garden to set it free once more. It just happened to be Annie’s birthday and she declared that to see this beautiful woodpecker fly away unharmed, had been a really great present.
Meanwhile the neighbour set off with a purposeful stride to take down the wool container and clear out the nest box!
It might be an idea to cut the wool into very short lengths if any of you intend to do this in future, rather than long strands, as it is incredible tough stuff to pull apart.
Back to normal and ready for release after the attentions of "Greg the Vet"! The red patch is not a blood stain - all Great-spotted woodpeckers have this red patch under the tail.
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