Posted by: Dan | May 1, 2006

Sapsucker Bonanza

In what I hope will become a weekly feature, the following will be a re-cap of my own recent birdwatching endeavors, including assorted observations of migratants, infrequent yard visitors, rare bird alerts in my area, additions to my life list, and whatever else suits my fancy.

For this week, I was away and unable to join the Spring Field Ornithology trip in “Local Upland Habitats,” but I was able to drop by Sapsucker Woods for an afternoon, experiment with combining my digital camera and binoculars, among other things, and discover that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a weekly blog up: All About Birds.

And also, before the fold, I’d like to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl and it’s ecological impacts by directing you to a great post at Bootstrap Analysis, looking at the impacts of that nuclear disaster on birds, and swallows in particular. And now the fold…

First, on Wednesday at Sapsucker Woods, I got some great views of two birds which I promptly added to my year list: multiple Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Two protective geese made it difficult, however, as they and their six goslings resolutely refused to either move off the trail or let me pass, as I was watching the Gnatcatcher.

Other pleasurable sitings included a mob of White-throated Sparrows, an abundance of Flickers, and a couple Belted Kingfishers.

Over the weekend, however, I went up to Niagara Falls for a fun weekend of rest and relaxation, and found a Greater Scaup entertaining my friends and I with a wonderful view, and providing me with the opportunity to practice combining my digital camera with my binoculars, which I thought turned out very well indeed:

The other photography I experimented with involved a certain feeding spot, just outside my girlfriend’s kitchen window, being frequented by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. These guys were not cooperating, however, by standing still nor being comfortable with my presence, making the snapshots rushed and blurry – very reminiscent of the Luneau video of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker made famous last year.

Y-b Sapsucker

As you can see though, it’s been drilling round holes in the tree, which it then uses to lick sap from, and later to eat the insects which come to feed on the sap. The holes are quite numerous, and in neat lines and rows along the tree trunk.

Sapsucker holes

Of course, they’ve been drumming quite frequently during the past month too. One morning, standing in the driveway surrounded by the woods there, I heard four separate Sapsucker drummers, in chorus it seemed, marking their territory – I was able to tell that they were Sapsuckers, and not some other woodpecker, by the uneven tempo of their territorial headbanging.

And the last bit of birding for the week: last week I resorted to emptying out my bluebird box – a pair of House Sparrows had a nest built, and as it turned out, three eggs laid. It’s a shame, but they are invasives and unwelcome guests in the nestbox, so I felt forced to evict them.


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