Sunday, September 25, 2016

Red-breasted Sapsucker behind the Senior Center

Red-breasted Sapsucker
(click to enlarge)
By John Reinke
Education Hill resident

On a recent sunny May afternoon, I decided to sit out on the patio behind the Redmond Senior Center and read my newspaper.  No sooner had I unfolded it, when I noticed a beautiful red-breasted sapsucker hammering the bark of a silver birch growing up against the side of the Center.
I was astonished to see this normally shy bird so close to human habitation, with folks occasionally passing in and out of the door no more than 25 feet away.  Unwilling to let the opportunity escape me, I fished out my pocket camera and snapped off a few quick shots.  Then I remembered that my much better zoom camera was in the trunk of my car.  I scurried away to the parking lot and retrieved it, hopeful that the bird would still be there when I returned.
Indeed it was, and I proceeded to click away.  To my surprise, the sapsucker let me approach quite close to the tree without flying off.  I observed that there were several rows of holes that it had drilled at various levels.  Sap was flowing down the trunk in a frothy stream from a few of the more recent holes.
I gradually moved closer, until ultimately I was no more than about seven feet from the tree.  The sapsucker was clinging to the bark perhaps eight feet up from the ground and seemed quite unperturbed by my approach.  Over the course of the next several days, I returned to take more photos, and frequently found it busily enlarging holes or making new ones.  I also observed butterflies, ants, and a wasp feeding on the bubbly sap.  I even took photos of a land snail high up on the trunk near the holes, but I couldn't tell if it was there because it had been attracted by the sap.  After a few weeks, the sapsucker no longer showed up.
Curiously enough, in mid April, I had photographed a red-breasted sapsucker entering its nest hole very high up in a dying poplar.  The tree was located on the east side of the Sammamish River Trail across from the rusty bridge, about a half mile north of the Senior Center.  I wondered if it could have been the same bird?

Red-breasted sapsuckers are classified as fairly common west of the Cascade Mountains, according to the Seattle Audubon Society.  Males and females look much alike and vary in size from slightly less than 8 inches to slightly less than 9 inches.  They also feed on insects that are attracted to sap. 

1 comment:

Bob Yoder said...

Very beautiful picture and interesting story. Thanks John!