Looking up to find a Bearded Woodpecker

It was early in October.

The countryside was bone dry and the rivers and creeks were fast becoming puddles and dry sandy or rocky beds. Green grass was something that could only be found around the few waterholes and it was well picked over by many hungry mouths as they tentatively  approached for a drink.

Elephants know where all the waterholes are and love playing in them when it's hot.

Elephants know where all the waterholes are and love playing in them when it’s hot.

Just on midday, I too, was feeling hot and thirsty. We had been searching for wildlife since 6am and we were tired. Shade was hard to come by, but eventually we found a tree which offered some protection from the sun and gratefully parked underneath. We were near a large river, but it was bone dry. The chances of seeing anything at this spot were minimal, but we needed a break. We could not get out, we were in Kruger and unless one is in a designated camp or rest area, it is forbidden to get out of one’s vehicle (with good reason!).

Nothing appeared to be moving. Everything was still and quiet and sleepy.

Digitally zoomed in - male Bearded woodpecker.

Digitally zoomed in and cropped – male Bearded Woodpecker.

Then there was a sound that was like music to my ears! Tik tik tik…..tik tik tik tik…….

I was instantly awake and reaching for the binoculars, grabbing my bird identification book and looking for the camera! I was right!

Looking up into the tree I could see a Bearded Woodpecker, working his way up a branch – tapping the wood as he went.

The pair of woodpeckers sitting together on a branch.

The view of one of the woodpeckers from where we were sitting – zoomed in to the fullest extent with the lens on the camera.

I am generally not an avid birdwatcher, but I had never seen a woodpecker before and this sighting meant that I could tick off one of those “things I have always wanted to do/see”. I was absolutely delighted.

The view of the woodpeckers from where we were sitting.

The pair of woodpeckers sitting together on a branch

But it got better! Squirming around in the front of the car so that I could get a better view I noticed that he was not alone. His mate was there with him! They were content to work up and down the branches, giving me plenty of time to take photos, but as you can see, there was a lot of woodwork in the way and I could not see them at all for most of that time! Being quite small (24cm or 9.5″ in length) and high in the tree, the photo quality is not great for most of the images I captured.

Digitally zoomed in - male and female Bearded woodpeckers.

Digitally zoomed in and cropped – male and female Bearded Woodpeckers.

But all that aside, I was thrilled to finally see a pair of Woodpeckers in the wild!

My birdbook tells me that this species is a Dendropicos namaquus for those of you who are into the latin names of birds! It is apparently a fairly common bird in the Mopane woodland areas (which is the habitat we were travelling through). The sighting with a mate is also not uncommon as the pair stay together all year round and indeed, all through their life.

This post is part of the series profiling African animals. When Ailsa (from Where’s my backpack) suggested this week’s travel challenge would be ‘Up’ it seemed the perfect response. Without having stopped, listened and most of all, looked up, I would never have found those woodpeckers!

(To see previous posts in the series, please use the Wildlife > Africa menu at the top of this page.)

This entry was posted in Africa, Kruger National Park, South Africa, Weekly challenges, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Looking up to find a Bearded Woodpecker

  1. Colline says:

    How often we forget to look up. What wonderful things we could be missing.


  2. Pingback: I admit it, I’m a birder « peregrination

  3. scrapydo says:

    This is fantastic. I had the opportunity to teach in the “bush” for some time. I had a class with children aged between 7-10 years. We loved to go outside and sit and watch red crested barbets knocking away in the trees.


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