This is a treasured original painting of Woodie ‘Guthrie’, our first Hollywood Forest resident Great Spotted Woodpecker, by acclaimed children’s book 📕 illustrator @alanorourke

One of the most thrilling things about being involved in an ongoing ecological art practice at our home, like my Hollywood Forest Story is welcoming birds. Our Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry approach, which is about transforming a monoculture woodland into a permanent forest means many more species are attracted to a biodiverse forest and our dawn chorus gets richer and louder every year 🙂

Since 2019we have been excited to welcome a species just returning to Ireland after an absence of several hundred years, the Great Spotted Woodpecker. It became extinct here when woodlands were cleared across Ireland in the 17-18th centuries.

Following new-to-Ireland Close-to-Nature forestry principles for continuous cover forestry (which is now becoming, hurray, a more mainstream practice with new forestry grants), we leave standing dead trees for such birds, insects and fungi, and have erected nesting boxes to invite more to Hollywood forest.

But while we saw our woodpecker checking out a nestbox we provided (we left a rotting log inside it on the advice of an ecologist friend), he was more taken with our electricity pole as a place for his home (he’s still working on his designs; the photo shows three holes at the front of the pole, and there are another three around the back).

Obviously, this pole is becoming unsound and will have to be replaced as it’s our main pole for our house electricity. But what to do?

I asked my ecologist friend and she recommended that when the pole is replaced, we save this ‘holey’ length of timber, and strap it onto the new pole!

It might seem a bit of trouble but then again on reflection, we have a lot to make up for wildlife whose homes we have destroyed mindlessly over centuries.

Our forester roared laughing when he saw the pole and he’s asked other Irish foresters if this is happening elsewhere – and yes, Irish Woodpeckers seem to have a thing for electricity poles, so nicely straight and sanded, so perfect for pleasing home design 🙂

What are your woodpeckers up to? Have you noticed this as well in your area?

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