The Story of Pecky, the Young Green Woodpecker, Could Be a Moneyspinner

The story of Pecky, the young green woodpecker, could be a moneyspinner. I’ll have to change the odd detail, it’s true – make it less tragic and more heartwarming.

Ever since I was a child, I’d always yearned to see a green woodpecker. With its scarlet cap and lime-green body, it looks far too colourful and exotic to be a native species. But it very much is, as you can tell from the fact that it has a rustic nickname — the yaffle.

This, incidentally, is how Professor Yaffle — the carved wooden bookend which comes to life as a drily academic woodpecker, the ‘font of all knowledge’, apparently based on Bertrand Russell — in the 1970s children’s TV series Bagpuss got his name.

But I digress. The point is, I never did get to see a green woodpecker till my mid–forties when I moved to the country. They’re so common round us that I spot them every time I go for a walk, identifiable by their loud, urgent, laughing call, their swooping flight pattern and the green on their back which looks more like yellow in sunlight. Only when you’re lucky, though, do you get to see them up close — like the other day when I found one trapped by the anti-rabbit fence in the back garden.

At first I thought it was a mature bird which had been wounded by the cat. But on closer examination it turned out to be a fledgling. They’re nearly as big as the adults and have the same colouring, only it’s speckled rather than solid. This, our resident ornithologist Lee told me, is so rival adult birds don’t attack it. The speckles say: ‘Leave him alone, he’s only a kid.’

Obviously the fledgling couldn’t fly or it would have escaped. So I quickly went to retrieve it before the cat discovered it. Because he pecked me a lot with his long sharp beak when I picked him up, I decided to call him Pecky.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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