RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Have you seen the French magpie about?

A lesser spotted woodpecker painted by Sussex artist Philip Rickman
A lesser spotted woodpecker painted by Sussex artist Philip Rickman

Two of the many birds that need the sweet chestnut are the Little French Woodpecker and the French Magpie.

What is the man talking about? I hear you exclaim.

Those were the old names for the lesser and greater spotted woodpeckers as shown here in Sussex artist Philip Rickman’s painting of 75 years ago.

Back then Sussex folk thought those two were so exotic they had to have come from France. Now the lesser spotted is becoming rare, but still finds a stronghold in ancient chestnut trees.

Old trees provide nest holes in the dead wood, yet the self-healing structure remains a strong castle, keeping the tiny bird safe from enemies. To tell males from females of both species, look at their heads. Only males have a red nape to their crown.