Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Second sapsucker working at base of tree--where it would be least frozen

I found this male Williamson's Sapsucker at Centennial Park today and like the other sapsucker it was working near the base of the tree--the place on a pine tree where the sun shines the most and where the tree is least frozen. Also they both worked on the south exposures of the trees, again very adaptive. The sap holes visible on this tree are those this bird likely drilled today, one even shows the glint of sap albeit likely quite frozen.
The fact that there have been 4 different sapsuckers trying to feed on bark, wood and sap that clearly is frozen in this harsh weather may indicate some level of desperation for food since leaving wherever it is that they are finding shelter would expend energy that badly need in these conditions, and especially all the flying/moving about I observed by the birds today would seem to use a lot of energy. The fact that the two males today moved around and between trees would seem to point out the difficulty of finding food. Their feeding on the lower trunks of trees and especially near the base would seem adaptive as this is where the trees would get the most solar exposure that might help thaw them out. Each location where I saw them drilling/chiseling was on the southern exposure, again where the most sun would warm the trees. I suspect that these sapsuckers have experience with freezing temperatures and trees during the breeding season as they would be at higher elevation both early and late in that season when temperatures fall quite low at the elevations where they are usually found; however, they would not likely have to deal with such very low and sustained low temperatures, which makes feeding difficult and would logically be the reason they are known to migrate further south in winter. SeEtta

Sapsuckers chiseling frozen trees

Today I went out in late morning to see if any of the wintering sapsuckers would be out after we hit -19 degrees F last night. The temp was up to around 7 degrees F when I located this male Williamson's Sapsucker drilling repeatedly at the lower part of the trunk including the base of a large ponderosa pine in which I have previously seen a male Williamson's feeding this season. It is very unusual to see a sapsucker working at the base or lower part of trunk as they tend to feed above 4 feet or so in my experience (and as documented by the location of thousands of sap wells in Canon City trees).
I watched from across the street to avoid disturbing him and observed him moving around the tree a lot more than I usually observe as though having difficulty finding food. After a few minutes he flew to another pine not far away but stayed only a few minutes before flying high off into the distance. After he left I went up to the tree where he had been chiseling and took photos of the holes (see middle pic for the holes that look reddish) he had made and all the bark and wood chips that had fallen on the snow as shown in the bottom pic.
I also found a second male Williamson's Sapsucker at Centennial Park and he behaved similarly to this one. SeEtta

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

High of 5 degrees-cold Red-naped Sapsucker

Yesterday was nice compared to today. After a low of minus 3 degrees in Canon City (worse in other front range cities), the high only rose to plus 5 degrees at midday. I went out to check on the wintering sapsuckers to see if they would be trying to drill holes in frozen trees and lap up sap that must be thick from well below freezing temps.
I took care to stay far enough back from trees where I have found them so I wouldn't flush them--they need increased food intake in cold weather so I wouldn't want to disturb any feeding they are able to do in this bitter cold. I was surprised to find this male Red-naped and 2 female Williamson's Sapsuckers, including one I missed on yesterday, at least attempting to feed. When I saw this Red-naped, he was just perched as shown with feathers fluffed--it didn't make any attempts to drill or feed during the short time I was there but as shown in this pic there are a number of sap wells circling around this long-leafed pine tree. SeEtta

Wintering sapsuckers: many still in Canon City

Since I have been home I have refound just over half of the Williamson's Sapsuckers, one female Yellow-bellied and the one male Red-naped, that have been wintering in the Canon City area this year.
Yesterday, with light snow and temps in mid-twenties (good sapsucker birding weather, really), I refound 12 Williamson's, a female Yellow-bellied and the male Red-naped. Surprisingly I refound 3 more male Williamson's , but missed 2 females that I had in the 2 weeks I have been back. Above is one of the male Williamson's that has been seen regularly on private property. SeEtta

Sangre de Christo Mountains in Colorado

I had to take a break from posting for a bit after the intensive almost daily posting I did for a month. Now I'm getting back in the proverbial saddle.
I took these pics a week ago when I drove up the Bighorn Sheep Canyon that runs west of Canon City. The Sangre de Christo Mountain Range begins just south of Salida and extend south/southeast through Colorado into New Mexico.
These pics were taken in Coaldale, CO, which is about 30 miles west of Canon City or from Hayden Creek Road just south of Coaldale. SeEtta