Survey organiser and Hertfordshire County Recorder, Ken Smith writes:
In most areas the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is in serious decline and for most birders it is quite a challenge even to get it on their year list. The reasons for the decline are not known for sure but work by the RSPB suggested low breeding success was a possible factor. It would be great to be able to compare the results of the RSPB work with those from the BTO Nest Record Scheme to see whether low breeding success is a general problem. Sadly over the last few years the numbers of nest records for this species have fallen to such low numbers that this is not possible.
Lesser Spots can be found nesting in any woodland but seem to be more abundant in well wooded areas and woods with high levels of dead wood. For example wet woodlands along river valleys.
It is obviously difficult to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nests but I think that some found as part of normal bird watching may be going unreported to the Nest Record Scheme. The usual rule for submitting a nest record is that the contents of the nest must be known on at least one visit. For woodpeckers in general and Lesser Spotted in particular it is usually not possible to view the nest contents without specialist video viewers. However a great deal can be learned about the timing of breeding and likelihood of success from the behaviour of the adults at the nest. By simply recording adult behaviour over a series of visits you can contribute to our knowledge of this species. Monitoring of nests at any stage can provide data in timing and nest outcome.
The value of these observations could be increased considerably if the contents were known, particularly the numbers of large young that are likely to fledge. As a pilot in 2015 a few of us who own the necessary video equipment and poles to inspect Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nests are offering a flying squad nest inspection service. If you have an active nest with adults feeding young contact me and provided I think the nest is likely to be accessible I will try to arrange for one of us to come and inspect the contents. We will respect site confidentiality where this is an issue.