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2020-11-16 Monday at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Red-Naped Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus nuchalis
I spent an early mid-November morning at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior Arizona, where I found a sap tree made by this Red-Naped Sapsucker. Several other species were reaping the benefits of this food source.

The morning at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum started off slow. I like to hike to the top of the property where there is a pond called Ayers Lake. On the walk to the pond, I saw very little in the way of passerines along the trail. When I got to the lake, I found a solo Pied-Billed Grebe and a single American Coot on the water to keep each other’s company. I sat quietly in the warm morning sun at the edge of the trail and observed. Eventually the small birds began passing through. I worked on the flycatchers (Say’s Phoebe & Phainopepla), gnatcatchers (Black-Tailed), Verdin and the kinglets (Ruby-Crowned) that foraged in the mesquite along the trail. I also noticed a Red-Naped Sapsucker in the area, but I didn’t get great shots when I first saw it. 

Another bird photographer wandered into the area and explored a nearby trail and found a Honey Mesquite tree where the sapsucker was working. Afterwards, he was kind enough to describe the location to me. I eventually walked into the gulch he pointed to and discovered the tree in question. I sat quietly and observed while the sapsucker teased the sap from the tree. As I watched the Red-Naped Sapsucker, a Gila Woodpecker came in and chased the sapsucker away, only to forage on the weeping sap from the holes the red-naped bird had made. The Gila Woodpecker wasn’t the only bird in the neighborhood interested in the food source. Later, I saw a Verdin come in and work on the sap, as did a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, and an Anna’s Hummingbird. 

By noon the day had heated up. The four hours that I spent here wore on me and I needed a break. It was a beautiful cloudless day with a breeze, and I greatly appreciated a shady rest on a bench.

After my break, I called it a day. I’ve visited the arboretum in the past, during much busier bird seasons, and it inclined me to remain until the day’s end. This mid-November day was lovely, but not the best time to meet birds. Still, I was grateful for the opportunity the sap tree gave me to observe behaviours I’d not seen before. At the end of the day, I enjoyed the company of an American Coot, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Bewick’s Wrens, Black-Tailed GnatCatchers, Gila Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, Phainopeplas, a Pied-Billed Grebe, a Red-Naped Sapsucker, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Say’s Phoebes, and Verdins.

Later, when I reflected on the events of the day, I wondered: How much sap could a sapsucker suck if a sapsucker could suck sap?

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