November 19th, 2016: Another rarity in Vancouver
This was a great week of birding. I got out to Point Roberts–that weird peninsula that’s actually part of the U.S.–with some friends and saw some great birds and Boundary Bay. But the highlight of the week was a rarity that popped up at the edge of a golf course not far from me.
This was a simple twitch. 1) Find out where the bird is with help from your awesome birding community. 2) Go to the location. 3) See the bird exactly where everyone said it would be as soon as you arrive. So yeah…that was easy.
The bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (as I imagine you’ve sorted out on your own). They’re common out east, but decided uncommon in Vancouver. The “rare” sapsuckers we get are usually Red-naped. But both Red-naped and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker reports have to be well corroborated because hybrids with our resident Red-breasted Sapsucker are quite common. (Many an excited Vancouver birder has been disappointed to find out they weren’t looking at a “pure” bird.)
Like all sapsuckers, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drills neatly arranged horizontal rows of holes into a tree in the spring, then nabs the sap as it moves up to the branches. Later, when the sap moves down from the branches, it moves deeper in the trees (in the “phloem”), so sapsuckers dig deeper holes to feed later in the season. It’s precision work to be sure, but the birds seem to know what they’re doing.