This morning I was talking to Alan Jamieson — he and Miranda Pearson read at the Arts Centre in Sechelt last evening, a lovely event, and then returned to our house for the night… — in the kitchen when we both noticed a strange bird on the railing of the deck. It was trying to perch and couldn’t seem to find its balance. When I went to the sliding door to watch, I could hear the churring of sapsuckers in the trees below the deck. Then it dawned on me: this was a young sapsucker, one of this year’s hatch, and it was the offspring of the pair which have spent the last few weeks in the cotoneaster just by the deck. I knew that the adult birds were making wells in the bark of the tree for sap to collect and I knew that insects were attracted to, and trapped by, the sap as well. But I hadn’t made the obvious connection: that they must have nest a nearby and that they were drinking sap themselves and taking insects back to the nest.
Later we went for a walk and the air was full of the sound of sapsuckers encouraging or scolding their young who were flying with them from tree to tree, the young clumsy and new to flight. I saw two young ones, each shepherded by an adult, fly from one tall fir to another (I suspect their nest is in a standing dead cedar not far from our house). And just now I saw this young one in the cotoneaster, trying to hold on to the trunk as one parent busily fed on a lower branch, stopping from time to time to give directions which the young bird seemed to ignore. Keeping its difficult balance was all it could do for now.
All the years I’ve lived here and watched birds build nests, hatch young, teaching those young to fly and make their way into the wild blue skies, I’ve never seen this moment in the lives of sapsuckers.
Small update, the next morning: one of the young sapsuckers came to the sliding doors leading from the deck into our kitchen (I’m describing this from its perspective, not ours…) and clung to the screen, looking at us with such urgency that it felt like a visitation from…well, you can fill in the space.