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There He Is

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

The woodpeckers rattle around in the trees of our wood, sending off bursts of high speed Morse code, whenever they find a chunk of wood that has the correct consistency. Apparently they need to tap between ten and forty PPS (pecks per second) to match the resonant frequency of the wood.

Samuel Morse, who gave his name to the Morse, code actually only coded the numbers, as soon as the telegraph became useful Alfred Vail added all the letters. Alfred came up with the really good idea of using the shortest bursts of dots and dashes to represent the most used letters in English. He popped round to the local newspaper and looked at the quantity of each letter amongst the movable type that he found in a type case there. This gave him a good starting point. Endeavour Morse, luckily for him, was purely fictional. He was a master of the sleight of hand necessary to keep his first name hidden from the entire police force and his TV audience.

Both male and females woodpeckers signal with this drumming during the spring and early summer. It is a call or territorial marker. They do chip bits out of tree trunks looking for food, they have a very long sticky tongue that they can use to fish around under the bark looking for insects – but that’s different.

There’s not that many trees in the wood behind our house and this guy is generating his staccato chatter almost all day. I have been trying to get a view of him for weeks.

And today. Snap!

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