14 November 2013

Treecreeper trouble!

The reader to this blog might recall that on Sunday we had rather a good time of it down in Bush Wood: the first Treeper(s) for two years, the Firecrest were back and while innocently luring the creepers we had, or we thought we had, a calling Lesser-spot reacting to the tape. Then Jono has to go and twitch the blighters in the morning and chucks the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.

Having failed to get up at a decent time to go out I had written off the day and decided on more sleep.  It was easier. A text from Mr Lethbridge stirred me briefly from my dreams. It was a picture of a tree with the instructions to look at a branch. Hopeless directions as I could barely make out the branch let alone any small bird that might be on it. He called to tell me that he had heard the Treecreeper making sounds that could be described as Lesser-spotted Woodpecker when he had payed his tape and the two birds had been interacting. Getting no sense out of me in my befuddled state he later sent another text.

".. I am relatively convinced that it (the call we are talking about) is a Treecreeper going bananas"


I had a go on xeno canto, and found nothing which could be said to be anything like what we, and presumably Jonathan, had heard. So I texted Stu and the wise Mr Harris for their views and when there response came back negative I decided to reach out to my London birding colleagues.

Anyone ever heard a Treecreeper use the call of a lesser spotted woodpecker? Jono found the Treecreepers in bush wood this morning and thinks what we thought was lsw was in fact Treecreeper responding to the lure. Don't know what he heard, but I've checked xeno canto and nothing close was obvious. To Bob, Dan and myself what we heard was classic lsw, but it only responded to Treecreeper and then immediately, calling once each time. Didn't see anything - I joked at the time: probably the Treecreeper!

Any views would be welcome

To which I got several replies with some helpful sources on Treecreeper calls, but generally I got the feeling that it must be Lesser spot! Without knowing what Jono heard I was, as it were, pissing in the wind!

Today he clarified his experience

Hi, just seen these messages. Anyway, I caught up with two Treecreepers in Bush Wood on Monday morning, and was keen to also see if I could find LSW as I've not seen one all year - anywhere.

Didn't take long to find a Treecreeper (used a tape) and pretty soon there were two. Usual soft Treecreeper noises, until the birds started to interact, at which point, as bird #2 came right in to chase bird #2, at the point they "met", one of the birds (difficult to see which one but I think the chaser) made a call I've not heard before and which I think is the woodpecker call Nick et al are talking about, though obviously I wasn't there when they heard what they heard. I would describe it as superficially similar to the falcon-like keekeekeekeekeekee of LSW, but not as loud, not as long (1.5-2 seconds max), and certainly not as pure -  huskier. I did a double take, but I was no more than six feet away and saw a Treecreeper do it. I admit to playing the tape for an injudiciously long time to see if I could work the birds up to doing it again, and managed to hear it a couple more times - each time at the height of the action as one bird virtually collided with the other this highly agitated LSW-style call came out briefly. I can't see it carrying too far in woodland, but I was also surprised by the volume and insistence of it.

My conclusion based on what I heard, and especially given that nothing responded to LSW, but did respond to Treecreeper, is that this is what was heard, but the usual caveats about not being there apply - in both directions. I can't find it on XC either, but when I have a spare moment I will try and see what BWP might have to say. My Treecreeper recording is from the 10 disc set by Roche, and the call I heard isn't part of it.

Stuart is going to post it on one of his international forums through Xeno Canto, and I have texted the Sage of Sheffield, MatanGarner, to get his views. Personally, while it is disappointing that it might not be a LSW and they're rare enough as it is, we might have stumbled on some as yet un-recorded bird behaviour, which is exciting.  Today when I went the two birds were not together and while one was happy singing to me the other just prrrreeeped!

Bush Wood is where it's at!  Oh, and we now have two Firecrest, one of which I was going to nail totally as it perched on a bare twig against the sky.  Then my phone rang.  It was work, they wanted me in early as it was busy. A chance blown and the day ruined.  Arse as some might say.

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