Monday 6 April 2015

Unexpected Sapsucker Wave

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker breeds in low densities in central and western Newfoundland in rich mixed birch/aspen forests. The most recent known active breeding areas in the upper Exploits River Valley are well off the beaten track of birders.  Most active birders wait for an off the wall migrant sapsucker to show up in their neighbourhood or at least within driving distance.

On the Avalon Peninsula it is being detected more often showing up nearly annually in spring and less so in fall.  On 3 April news of a sapsucker in St. Mary's, St. Mary's Bay, Avalon Peninsula. Lorraine and Eugene Bowen had one tapping the Norway maples in their yard.  It was a bird many of the newer birders had not yet seen in the province. Being a slow spring, any colour like that of a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a most welcome attraction.  

Over the weekend 4-5 April most people who made the 115 km drive from St. John's to St. Mary's filled their boots with images of a dolled up male sapsucker. The bird moved to Joe Dillon's property where there were more maple trees to drill for sap.  

The date was early for a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It was a week early even for arrival on breeding grounds in NS and NB where a common bird. But it turned out there must have been an influx of early spring overshoots that included a Great Egret at St. John's and TWO MORE Avalon Yellow-bellied Sapscukers - one in Ferryland and one in Mount Carmel.

A classic spring male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a striking bird.  (5 April St. Mary's)

The sap was not running too well on Sunday with high west winds and temperatures falling to sub-zero.  (5 April St. Mary's)

Eventually it moved to the ground and found some exposed roots that seemed to offer a better source of sap.

A ground dwelling sapsucker looks a little strange but unobstructed views.

The yellow belly.

While on the ground it was seen eating two carpenters (sow bugs).  The first one it choked down. The second one it crushed in its bill before swallowing.  I didn't know anything ate carpenters.

After leaving the St. Mary's sapsucker I drove toward Haricott to check out the goose and duck scene. While driving through Mount Carmel I noticed a house surrounded in Avalon fir forest but with a yard full of maples.  I didn't even slow the car down as I scanned the tree trunks for a sapsucker just in case.  Miraculously there was one!  I made a U-turn drove back and there it was - a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker stuck to the side of a poplar tree. This was the third sapsucker of the weekend on the Avalon Peninsula and it was early April. This was crazy. How many sapsuckers are there really around and what else might have come up one this early wave?

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker clinging to the trunk of a tree in a garden in Mount Carmel on 5 April 2015. The white throat makes this one a female.

This is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that Jerome Curran photographed in his yard at Ferryland on 4 April.  He did not see it the next day. 

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