THEY say curiosity killed the cat, but it was greed that nearly killed this hungry baby woodpecker.

The nestling in a tree at Wolvercote lakes plunged 30ft from his nest after reaching too far to get a meal from his doting parent.

Still too young to fly, he then had to valiantly climb all the way back up.

Luckily, the whole saga was caught on camera by amateur photographer Ian Curtis.

Mr Curtis, who lives in Wolvercote with his wife and their two children, had been watching the young woodpecker family growing throughout May.

He said: “Predictably, the chicks were very demanding, and whichever was at the entrance would stretch out their necks when they saw the parents flying towards them.”

Then, one day it happened: one youngster got a little overexcited.

Mr Curtis, who works at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, said: “He overreached and was suddenly spread-eagled against the bark, hanging on.”

The next second the fledgling was doing a chaotic parachuting pirouette into the undergrowth 30ft below.

Mr Curtis said: “I was then faced with one of those photographer’s nightmares: do I step in and help or let nature take its course and click away?”

He went closer to see if he could help and spotted Woody had crashed-landed in a dense mass of brambles which he could not have penetrated even if he wanted to.

He said: “Almost immediately I could see Woody emerging from the brambles and scrabbling up a tree trunk at the start of a determined return journey.”

Instinctively not wanting to draw attention to his vulnerability, Woody stayed silent while following the chirping coming from his sibling back in the nest.

Slowly but surely, clambering forwards, sideways, upwards and occasionally backwards, Woody made good progress.

It was only when he got to the top he realised he had climbed the wrong tree.

Undeterred, he hopped across to the right one to make his final ascent.

When he made it home, he clambered onto the top of the trunk and sat down for a rest.

Seconds later a parent flew in with another beak-full, but rather than give it to the exhausted Woody, fed it to his less greedy and more patient sibling still in the nest.

Well, good things come to those who wait.

Mr Curtis said: “At the time, it had seemed an amazing, stroke-of-luck, encounter with the sheer determination, single-mindedness and survival instinct of one small struggling woodpecker chick.

“And he certainly hadn’t needed any help.”


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