Who Stole The Bottlebrush?

Nope, Callistemon blooms do not grow on trees.

I had only the one bloom this year. And the last time I looked it was firmly attached to the Callistemon shrub, where it belonged. So how come it’s now up there?

This wildlife in the garden thing isn’t at all straightforward. I’ve written, often, about the trials and tribulations of mice, squirrels, rabbits and slugs. And deer. But birds? The woodpeckers have chicks. They have started their constant relay between the bird table and the nest, beaks stuffed with food. It’s lovely to see them. It would be even better if they brought the little ones back to visit us, just like last year.

But then one day, as I was contentedly working away in the greenhouse, there came a sound like rapid gunfire. I hurtled up the path to find the woodpecker trying to hammer a hole in the front of a nest box. A nest box full of baby Great Tit chicks. Woodrow flew off. But not for long. For several minutes I had to keeping shooing him away, along with his missus who had turned up in support.

The Great Tit parents were frantic. But they knew exactly what to do. With the woodpeckers briefly out of the way they had the chicks out of the nest box, one by one, and into the relative safety of a nearby rhododendron bush. It all happened so quickly. The chicks were able to fly so presumably not far from fledging in any case. And of course we got a front seat view.

Things calmed down and the woodpeckers returned to gathering food from the bird table. But remember the wren’s nest in the clematis next to the greenhouse? Those chicks have now started to chirp. How long before the woodpeckers would find them too? And they don’t even have a wooden box for temporary protection. What to do. Do we carry on feeding the woodpeckers, bringing them into earshot of the greenhouse? Or do we once again try to drive them away in an effort to protect the wrens? The decision was relatively easy. I let the feeders run down. The woodpeckers can, I hope, find food elsewhere. But if the baby wrens become dinner…


Which brings us back to the question of the bottlebrush bloom. And the previously flowering Callistemon in a pot right next to the bird table.



Woodrow’s revenge?


2018-04-04T19:13:54+00:00June 4th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Jane and Lance Hattatt June 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Hello Jessica:

    Oh, the trials and tribulations of trying to exact a balance where Nature is concerned. In all the years we were in Herefordshire we can only once recall having seen a woodpecker so in that respect, but not others, you are most fortunate.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:24 pm - Reply

      I’d never seen a woodpecker until we came here. And up until the last few days I’ve loved having them around. Unfortunately it seems the closer one gets to nature the more likely to see it in the raw.

  2. countrysidetales June 4, 2014 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Hmmm, it’s a tough one, that. As you know, we have similar conundrums here. All the more so because a baby GSW has just landed on the picnic table, which is right next to the baby blue tit’s box….I shooed him away 🙁

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      While we were having lunch today a male GSW landed on the clematis where the wrens are.. so they know they’re there.

  3. Sigrun June 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Realy great – the first what I thought was: Callistemon!!
    And flying?


    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Maybe the wind blew it.. the wind has been strong, but it would have had to have been very strong! The tree is quite a distance from the Callistemon.

  4. Christina June 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    We have problems woth woodpeckers making holes in the shutters (that was to find a nice warm protected place for the winter (bill €300), next it was the house walls, stone and mortar all over the terrace! Hummmmmmmmmm

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      Here I’ve seen them pulling straw out of the thatched roof, presumably looking for insects. Birds can be costly indeed.
      And then we were woken early one morning a year or so ago by another horrendous knocking sound.. the woodpecker had discovered that the bathroom soil pipe made an excellent drumming post!

  5. Rosie June 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    It is such a precarious time for the young birds – I saw a kerfuffle between blackbirds and magpies earlier – it looked as if the magpies were after the young blackbirds or 2nd brood eggs perhaps. I wonder if Woodrow did take out his revenge for the empty feeders on your bottlebrush? The squirrels are being a nuisance here at the moment:)

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      If it wasn’t Woodrow then chances are it would have been a squirrel, I have seen them climbing the shrub. Or magpies? They go for bright shiny things don’t they?

  6. justjilluk June 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    We too have problems with Magpies. Hoping the blackbirds won.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      The trouble is, I end up feeling so responsible for the nests in the garden. Particularly so in this case as I have brought the predator in by feeding it.

  7. Marian June 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Beautiful birds, those woodpeckers. I never see any here. Our garden is a playground for the smaller birds we do have.
    I hope the woodpeckers leave the wrens(really have no idea what those are, must look up the translation) babies alone.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      They are beautiful birds, very timid though despite fearsome beak so quite difficult to photograph. Any shot I’ve ever got of them has been with a camera on a tripod and a long cable to take the picture.

  8. Mark and Gaz June 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    At least it seems you have pretty much solved the mystery of the misplaced bottlebrush bloom!

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      I reckon it’s woodpecker, squirrel or magpie. Sadly I don’t have another bloom so I can’t mount a stake out to find out!

  9. Marian June 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    O, that’s a wren! A ‘winterkoninje’ we call them, yes, we have those in the garden, they are the tiniest birds ever and so cute. I can imagine they need protection from the woodpeckers.
    ‘Winterkoninkje’ means literally translated into English ‘little winterking’, love that name;)

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      It is a lovely name! Yes, they are tiny birds.
      Our previous house also had a thatched roof, but that one had a layer of chicken wire on top to stop birds pinching the straw. A wren had hollowed out a nest on the underside of the roof overhang, the only bird small enough to get through the wire. What a perfect place safe from predators! We were able to watch the babies as they got bigger.. while the house was being renovated our builders used to feed them bits of their lunchtime sandwiches. A builder’s lunch probably not the healthiest diet!

  10. Pauline June 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Nature is cruel sometimes unfortunately. We have Gt Spotted Woodpeckers bring their offspring to the birdtable at the moment, where there are also masses of baby bluetits and baby Gt Tits. The Woodpeckers don’t seem tempted by the little ones, so I hope they will be ok, hope yours are too!

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      I think I may have been too late, I haven’t heard a peep out of them this afternoon. I’ve been working in the greenhouse in a bid to protect the nest as the woodpeckers have found it. Yesterday the wren was quite happy to feed them even though I was around. Not today.
      I’ve had quite enough of this rain… should we build an ark?

  11. Freda June 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    It is a dilemma. That last photograph is wonderful Jessica!

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      I love that photo so couldn’t resist using it again. He looks so sheepish peeping round the pole!

  12. Sue@GLAllotments June 4, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Apparently woodpeckers raid more nests than magpies. They’ll peck a hole in the bottom of the nesting box to get to the young birds.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Not nice is it. I suppose all chicks have to be fed. But I’m looking at the woodpeckers in a different light now.

  13. wherefivevalleysmeet June 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    I have masses of buds on my Callistemon but it has yet to open – I recall you first showed yours quite a while ago.
    Woodpeckers and Magpies create dilemmas in our garden too along with our regular Sparrow Hawk.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      It was out in mid May. It’s a standard in a pot which has grown into a rather ugly shape. I pruned it very hard last year hoping it would resprout so I’m not surprised its flowering is rather restrained this year.

  14. hoehoegrow June 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    I have to ask the question, what would the woodpeckers do to the chicks ? I thought they just ate insects… I have a horrible feeling you are going to disillusion me Jessica !!

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      Sadly they do take eggs and chicks of smaller birds for food. 🙁

  15. Chloris June 4, 2014 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    I love your wildlife stories. It is so funny that the woodpecker stole your Callistemon flower. I love the photo of the beady eye watching you balefully from behind the post.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      I confess I didn’t actually see him do it, but he’s firmly in the frame. He was in the vicinity at the time and had a motive!

  16. Jennifer June 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Oh, interesting…I wonder. I have sapsuckers here who are like woodpeckers, I think? They can be very annoying and destructive but they’re so pretty.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Yes, they are related and do look quite similar. I read that they can do a lot of damage to your trees.

  17. Amy at love made my home June 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Of course my first instinct is to blame Ptolomey, but I don’t suppose that he really “did it”, what about Hucknall, perhaps he fancied a bit more red in his surroundings! I just hope that the wrens make it through – and that the Callistemon has some more blooms sometime! xx

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      Ptolemy is very busy.. he has a woman and I have been forsaken. I live in hope that he and Mrs P will bring the little ones back to see us?

      • knitsofacto June 8, 2014 at 11:15 am - Reply

        Really?! What if they all take up residence?

        • Jessica June 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm - Reply

          I’ve seen over a dozen, at one time, in the garden before now but they don’t stay. (I was not quick enough with the camera either.) As soon as they are mature they move off to their own territories. The ladies keep themselves well hidden most of the time and resident male population is never more than two. That is enough!

  18. Denise June 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    I’ve been watching SpringWatch on the BeeB. That has been gruesome viewing sometimes. Still, I suppose Nature sorts itself out for the best in the end.

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      BBC nature films don’t make any allowances for a person’s sensitivities. I used to think that the sound man increased the volume whenever one of David Attenborough’s animals was feasting.

  19. Sol June 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    love the last picture! spectacular

    • Jessica June 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sol. It’s one of my favourites too.

  20. rachel June 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    One of my fellow allotmenteers solved the problem of predatory woodpeckers getting into the baby blue tits by placing a metal plate, with a hole cut in it that corresponded to the hole in the nesting box; worked a treat, and also made a racket that alerted everyone within range!

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

      It does stop them enlarging the nest box hole. Left undisturbed the woodpecker will just make a new hole somewhere else, so a bit of racket is a good thing!

  21. Cathy June 4, 2014 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Woody has been quiet here this year, hardly seen him or the squirrel – but who knows what’s going on in the undergrowth. Hope your Great Tits and wrens survive – and your bottle brush too, of course!

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 9:33 am - Reply

      If you want a squirrel or several let me know, we are plagued with the things yet again. As soon as I know the wrens have definitely left I will set up the twirler again underneath the bird table.

  22. nataliescarberry June 5, 2014 at 3:02 am - Reply

    What great shot of Woodrow! I came in this very evening from my rounds in my gardens lamenting the damage done by feral cats, raccoons and possums! I’m so sorry your Bottlebrush was hijacked. Love, N 🙂

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 9:39 am - Reply

      It’s a constant battle isn’t it. I love to see the wildlife in the garden, but it comes at a price. And the slugs have found my new herb border. I’ve lost the dill now 🙁

  23. Simone June 5, 2014 at 11:19 am - Reply

    I have never seen a woodpecker in the real but do have lots of baby wrens in the garden. Nevertheless I would have gone for driving away the woodpeckers to save the wrens too. Maybe it was Woodrow who decided on a bit of flower (re)arranging as you stopped his fun feasting on baby birds!

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      This afternoon I spotted two new flower shoots on the Callistemon, so I suppose that’s the next thing I now need to protect. It never ends..

  24. Jo June 5, 2014 at 11:48 am - Reply

    I’m thinking I may be better off not having woodpeckers visit my garden after reading this. It’s a bit of a dilemma, isn’t it? Good on the Great Tits for foiling the woodpeckers attempts at getting to the babies, I hope they’re ok after having to leave the nest so quickly.

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      It was amazing to watch Jo. I never credited birds with strategic thinking but that’s undeniably what happened. I saw one of the youngsters being fed a couple of days later so hopefully they’re all OK.

  25. Em June 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    Are you sure it wasn’t one of the Furry Four?

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm - Reply

      I’d put nothing past them Em. The squirrels are top of the pain in the posterior list again. But they are having great fun taunting Mike into chasing them with the water pistol.

  26. islandthreads June 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Jessica, despite the drama with the woodpeckers, how wonderful to have the birds nesting so close by, I’ve read about fitting a metal plate to bird box openings so larger birds can’t peck the hole and make it bigger, Frances

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      It works for a while. The trouble with the woodpeckers though is they then just make a hole in the bottom of the bird box or one of the sides.

  27. snowbird June 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    How fantastic to have the woodpeckers….and how worrying trying to save all the little birds. I would have stopped feeding them too….I’m glad you were there to help out! Brilliant stuff.xxx

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      It’s been constant angst this week! But we did some careful probing this afternoon, as the wrens’ nest had gone quiet, and found it empty. No signs of forced entry, so hopefully the wrens pulled off the same trick as the Great Tits and they’re all safely fledged.

  28. welshhillsagain June 5, 2014 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    We have woodpeckers feeding here too. have never seen them predating on other birds though. They are so shy all we see is a sudden flying in and out to the feeders and away.

    • Jessica June 5, 2014 at 11:35 pm - Reply

      They are very shy. They react to the slightest movement inside the house. But they hold top spot in the bird table pecking order. They fly in and everything else scatters.. apart from the little retinue of scavengers underneath, woodpeckers can be very messy eaters!

  29. Suzanne June 6, 2014 at 1:50 am - Reply

    I never knew woodpeckers would do that! That’s awful nature is chockful of things like this. Everyone has to eat I guess, but do we have to see it?

    • Jessica June 6, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Not all woodpeckers do, it’s the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the one we have in the garden, that’s the worst culprit. Now that the wrens have vacated we have taken down the tower of ivy and clematis that the nest was in. So there won’t be a repeat performance.

  30. woolythymes June 6, 2014 at 2:34 am - Reply

    i love hearing about all the wildlife trials in your garden…..i’ve had no drama this year (that i’m aware of, but then, we’ve been gone so much….); our lazy robin used her last year’s nest instead of making a fresh one….I didn’t think they did that, but apparently they do.

    • Jessica June 6, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

      She obviously liked her nest very much. A refurb job would suffice!

  31. CJ June 6, 2014 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Oh nature can be so terribly cruel can’t it. Me and my eldest have been watching Springwatch, and it’s so full of blood and death. Watching a crow and a magpie try to eat baby rabbits while they’re still alive was horrible. Well done for saving those baby great tits. You’ll have to camp out by the wrens next!

    • Jessica June 6, 2014 at 9:38 am - Reply

      I haven’t been watching Springwatch this year, it sounds as though it was the right decision.

  32. sustainablemum June 6, 2014 at 9:24 am - Reply

    We used to have woodpeckers visiting regularly but I have not seen them of late not since our neighbour stopped filling his bird feeders. You have made me think that the blue titis stopped using our nesting boxes for a bit to maybe there was a correlation. The blue tits are back now thankfully. I loved this post and your funny story, it is great to be able to watch what is happening in their world close up.

    • Jessica June 6, 2014 at 9:47 am - Reply

      We are certainly exposed to all sides of nature. It’s a tough world out there. Thinking about CJ’s comment above, I’m sure Springwatch are trying to portray a more realistic scenario than just the fluffy baby chicks that they used to. I’m not sure I want to see it all in HD though!

  33. Sarah June 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    I always enjoy your wildlife stories! They certainly keep you and us entertained! Sarah x

    • Jessica June 7, 2014 at 12:06 am - Reply

      It has been the squirrels over the last couple of days.. four at a time! They will get their comeuppance.

  34. Josephine June 7, 2014 at 4:42 am - Reply

    We’ve been feeding the birds all year long, the Woodpeckers are now bringing their babies, but didn’t know they could possibly run off other birds.
    I’m afraid we have created a problem, novices that we are.
    I just love the picture of Woodrow, perfect crime !

    • Jessica June 7, 2014 at 9:34 am - Reply

      Jo, it may well be that your woodpeckers are harmless.
      It is the Great Spotted over here that causes the most trouble. And it’s only this year I’ve noticed it. There does appear to be more than one pair though, perhaps it’s all getting a bit more competitive in woodpecker world.

  35. Dorothy Borders June 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    How odd. I’ve never heard of woodpeckers attacking other birds. And, as for your bottlebrush…well, your garden is certainly full of mysteries!

    • Jessica June 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm - Reply

      Maybe it is only the Great Spotted Woodpecker. I know it’s nature but it’s a shame. I love seeing them in the garden but could do without the angst!

  36. Chel @Sweetbriar Dreams June 7, 2014 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    It does make you wonder if the woodpeckers are taking their revenge 🙂 I have four baby blackbirds that think I am mum and have taken to pecking at the back door when they need more food. Trouble is that my dog is getting very agitated by this (and jealous!). Thanks for popping by my blog, my parents thought the same, quiet neighbours. Unfortunately one set of neighbours on the other side are not so quiet 🙂

    • Jessica June 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm - Reply

      I haven’t seen any baby blackbirds yet, yours sound too cute. I hope they manage to stay clear of the dog!

  37. knitsofacto June 8, 2014 at 11:55 am - Reply

    We only have robins nesting here this year, and our small courtyard garden, just paving and shrubs and hanging baskets, is a very protected space as it’s fully enclosed and the whippets keep cats and larger birds away. But I have nature red in tooth and claw just feet from my front door and being country born and bred that’s how I like it best. If I were growing veg I’d obviously need to protect it, but as to the rest, I’d rather commune with the wild things than grow stuff. And I’m loving that Spring Watch is dispelling some of the fluffier notions about the birds and the beasts.

    Did you know that GSWs hadn’t bred in Ireland since the 17thC, if not before, but that they are now recolonising the island, probably directly as a result of the growth of the mainland population? http://www.irelandswildlife.com/great-spotted-woodpecker-ireland/

    • Jessica June 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the link Annie, I didn’t know that GSWs were so rare in Ireland. Glad to read that they are reestablishing there.
      Springwatch did need to become more of a ‘serious’ nature programme. I stopped watching it because it had all got rather silly and am glad to hear its improved. But I’m still a softie at heart. When you’ve been following the fortunes of a Great Tit family, three feet from your back door, for several weeks, it’s rather heart wrenching if they get eaten.

  38. casa mariposa June 9, 2014 at 2:09 am - Reply

    I had no idea woodpeckers would attack baby birds! I knew blue jays would but not woodpeckers. Our woodpeckers keep to themselves. I think stealing the bottle brush was a definite sign they know you thwarted them. But how audacious of them to make sure you saw it! What a sassy pair!

    • Jessica June 9, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

      It must be just the British Great Spotted Woodpecker that does this. I have to admit a grudging respect for the garden wildlife, them and the squirrels, audacious about sums it up!

  39. CherryPie June 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    We currently have snails munching on our pot plants. Need to locate the WD40 to sort that out!!

    • Jessica June 9, 2014 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      You and me both… never thought of WD40. What do you do, spray it in a ring around the pot?

      • CherryPie June 10, 2014 at 8:13 am - Reply

        I spray it around the top rim of the pot and it puts them of venturing any further. It is not to be used with edible plants though.

        • Jessica June 10, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

          That’s a good tip, thanks Cherie.

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