This is the most common woodpecker in Japan and on our hike yesterday through the Rokku Gaaden in the hills above Kobe, we spotted two of them. I managed to get a decent photo, above, but will try to get a better one as I stay longer in Japan. Pygmy woodpeckers (Picoides kizuki) make their nests in dead branches of trees and I think this one may have been doing that. They breed in late April so he was getting a head start on the season. That is one of the issues facing pygmy woodpeckers. They do well in urban parks, but many times for safety or aesthetic reasons, branches are cut down and researchers have seen a reduction in nesting sites for them.
As we were walking, I heard the characteristic tapping sound of the woodpecker and hence, identified the species. They are small for woodpeckers and they are supposed to have a red spot at the nape, but it is often covered by feathers. Pygmy woodpeckers are resident in all of Japan, the Koreas, eastern China, and into Russia.
Update – June 22, 2015 The specimen below was busily hollowing out a branch in the Senri Chuo Central Park in the middle of our school’s elementary picnic. There were close to 100 children directly below, but it was unperturbed. Shavings of wood, which you can see in its beak, were falling gently down upon the students. I can see why they are successful breeders in a populous country.