The Cry of the Sapsucker

If any bird has a made-up sounding name, it has to be the yellow-bellied sapsucker. They are woodpeckers, named because of their habit of drilling holes through the bark of trees in late winter, and feeding on the oozing sap. The rings of holes they leave become an important food source for other animals, including early hummingbirds and butterflies that arrive before the first flowers appear. The call of the sapsucker has been compared to that of a hawk but the sapsuckers are active before the hawks return and I’ve learned to look to the trunk of the crab apple instead of high in the sky when I hear it this time of year.

But sooner or later, the hawks return, and I am not the only one who should remember to look up.

Hawk killing a bluejay

Many nature photographers sit in a blind, for hours and hours, hiding and waiting for something to happen, and I am no exception. My blind has been cleverly disguised as a house.

This bluejay was in a tree near the feeders but I’ve also seen hawks pick them off in late summer, as they fly from the oak trees, loaded down with acorns.

Sometimes it takes a bit of guessing and a 45-minute walk to figure out what has happened in the snow, but sometimes it happens right before my very eyes. Sometimes I remember I have a camera, hanging right there, next to the door.

Reading signs in the snow, it takes some effort to figure out exactly what happened hours before. It’s not often the only effort required is to set down the coffee and pick up the camera.

Categories: nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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24 thoughts on “The Cry of the Sapsucker

  1. I, too, have such a blind and, like you, try to keep a camera at hand. We’re lucky folks.

    Great catch, both you and the hawk.

  2. With the mild winter we’ve had, I’ve seen more hawks and eagles from my front porch this year than ever before. The eagles have started to disappear, going wherever they go, but the hawks always stick around. At least a few.

    Sadly, my camera is lacking…see that black speck, that’s an eagle, no, really.

  3. My wife and I once heard a coopers hawk, we looked up to see a cloud of feathers. He picked a dove off the power line and tore it to shreads before our eyes. Quite a sight for sure…great pictures.

    • It happens fast, doesn’t it? We get little merlins passing through, migrating. They are about the same size as a blue jay and they’re like little missiles. You can hear the impact from quite a distance. POOF!

  4. Unreal photos Quill.

    • Oh, I don’t know about that. I’ve gotten kind of used to looking outside and wondering what’s going to get eaten today.

  5. Enjoyed your pictures and post. Awesome to see things like that first hand. Thanks for sharing with us less fortunate ones!

    • Mel, something tells me you’ve seen a few things in your time, but you’re welcome. You just have to keep your eyes open.

  6. Gotta love sapsuckers. Have watched them sip for hours at their maple-taps, like old guys at the bar with not much else to do. That Cooper’s, or sharpie, made a nice strike and you captured the talons of nature there.

    • They’ve started drilling a young maple by the house for the first time and I can’t believe how long they’ll sit and sip. I don’t blame them though. I drink a lot of syrup this time of year, too.

  7. ‘nothing like ‘lazy-assed’ nature reporting !…. :mrgreen:

  8. Nice going, coffee drinker. I particularly like the departing departing shot.

    • Thanks,Vic. Making something out of nothing with that last one. It was a tense few seconds, once I realized it was getting ready to fly away. Waiting, all jittery, with my finger poised over the shutter button. Wait … wait …. waitNOW!

  9. LouF

    And a good time was had by all…except of course the bluejay!

    great shots quill

  10. Thanks, Lou. Changed that bluejay’s day in a real hurry, didn’t it?

    It’s the time of year when part of me is really ready to open up the camps and get the season going, but another part of me is begging for just a few more weeks of quiet! Seven and counting.

  11. Wow! Quill, cameraman extraordinaire! What an amazing sequence!!! I love my sapsuckers too…but I only have the red-naped variety. Enjoy your several more weeks of peace and quiet!

    • There aren’t many times the show comes to me, so I’m just glad I remembered the camera was right there. Guess I should post pictures of actual sapsuckers instead of just alluding to their call …

      The pace picks up from here, starting with digging out the roads so I can dig out the porches and stairs, and remembering to order plenty of toilet paper. And melon ballers and lemon zesters; things I have been informed are very important to the overall Fish in a Barrel Pond experience. We took care of the Great Martini glass shortage last year but lemon zesters just slipped my mind.

      The quiet is nice while it lasts.

  12. Quill,

    We’ve always been avid bird feeders, and the truth of the matter is that the birds you attract also attract hawks. If we look out and there are no birds, its time to look in the trees for the inevitable hawk. Quite a few doves have been hawk meals at our feeders. I think its actually quite cool; my wife thinks its gross.

    • The box never actually specifies which birds we will actually end up feeding and it’s kind of nice to know a hawk on the hill can flap its wings and I won’t see any of our 653 bluejays for at least half an hour.

      I now have some pictures of the aftermath of an incident where it looks like an ermine has been using tunnels under the snow to sneak up on, and grab, unsuspecting juncoes, dragging them back in and hauling them to a stone wall. Feathers, blood, and a hole in the snow …

  13. Beautiful that you caught him mantling his prey. Cool!

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