Walk through Totem Park

This entry is part 43 of 133 in the series 2011 Photojournal

Sapsucker weather continued today, though it did begin to moderate. Temperatures reached the mid-20s, warm enough that the sun warmed ground was sufficient to start melting ice along the roads and sidewalks. Forecast is for increasing wind and cloudy conditions with temperatures still remaining chilly, but not nearly so cold as over the past few days. While out today, it seemed like the predominant wind was out of the east, though it was a bit swirly – a couple of times I was hit by small gusts coming out of the west. It also seemed as though on the water waves were coming partially out of the south.

I went on a walk around the park to get to the Post Office. I was curious about how many sapsuckers I would find. I don’t have the count handy, but I think it was at least 10 between the house and the end of the park near the river mouth, plus an additional couple later in the day that I saw in the neighborhoods around the new house. The tide was up during my walk and I noticed Mallards and Barrow’s Goldeneye were feeding quite close to the shore along the rocks at the northwest end of the little sandy cove between Merrill Rock and the bed rock out crops before Sage Rock (this was in addition to another 50 or so Mallards sleeping on gravel at Sage Beach). It’s not unusual to see Mallards close in like this, but I don’t often see Barrow’s Goldeneye feeding quite so close to shore.

Crossing the river, it appeared the ice was starting to collapse and the river was running higher. Given the still below freezing temperatures, this seemed a little odd and I didn’t think the tide was high enough to push quite that far up the river. Perhaps I should have checked out when temperatures were still down in the teens. Quite a few Varied Thrushes were foraging along the river banks, while one American Dipper was splashing about in the open water in the center of the river.

On my return from the post office, I noticed something running across the street in front of the drive to the lower park parking lot. I suspected it was a cat, but didn’t get a great look before it was out of sight behind a house. I decided to investigate more closely and found that it was a cat. It had caught a sapsucker (no doubt when it was at the base of a tree tapping – they’re not accustomed to cats as predatory threats, I suspect). I heard a squeak or two from the sapsucker and approached to investigate more closely. The cat was distracted by me, and the bird took the opportunity to roll upright and take flight, returning to the spruce trees near where it had been captured.

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Sapsucker Weather

This entry is part 42 of 133 in the series 2011 Photojournal

Walking across the yard this afternoon, I noticed a Red-breasted Sapsucker working at the trunk of a Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). I was reminded that this sort of weather (perhaps especially at this time of year) makes for good opportunities to look for sapsuckers. They winter here in limited numbers, though I more often see them at mid-elevations than at sea level. However, when temperatures drop into the 20s and teens they will show up at sea level, especially near shores with sizable trees and good southern exposure. At such times they will really work at the base of the trees, I imagine because it’s the first place the sap will run – perhaps even when air temperatures are quite cold if the trunk is sufficiently warmed by the sun. When I saw it, this particular sapsucker was checking out wells that had evidently been made over the past few days. After it flew off, I checked them out, and they appeared to be pretty dry.

Winds were down today, though there was still a little bit of breeze. Temperatures warmed slightly, and are forecast to warm further over the rest of the week (though the wind is supposed to pick up later tomorrow). Some clouds were evident to the south and west as I walked home from UAS – the sunset was quite colorful, perhaps because of those clouds. On the way to UAS I noticed a somewhat strange looking cloud that appeared to be over Indian River Valley (though it’s difficult for me to say exactly). It was very smooth and I’m thinking that was probably due to wind sculpting. It was also quite isolated, so I’m curious as to what may have led to its development.

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Red-breasted Sapsuckers in Winter

Red-breasted Sapsucker in December (click to enlarge) Fairly easy find around Sitka during spring and summer working their sap wells, Red-breasted Sapsucker abundance seems to drop in the fall and they are rarely reported from November through February along the road system. Most times when sapsuckers are seen, it is during periods with extended below … Read more