Friday, February 13, 2009

Sugar Maple and Sapsucker: Be My Valentine!

This post really does have something to do with Valentine's Day--just keep reading.

Tuesday was a warm day, in the 60s, and sunny--perfect for working in the yard. My dog, Kookie, was busy chasing after chipmunks who were out that day. She chases them into their hole and then digs them out (why don't they just go up a tree?). Anyway, I just couldn't stand listening to her barking and digging, knowing that some poor little chipmunk was scared to death so I went after her.

Kookie was down in a hollow. I eased down the steep bank, using the trunk of a Sugar Maple to brace myself. That's when I realized it was completely wet. Examining the trunk, I found several holes, freshly drilled no doubt by the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. I tasted the water and it was faintly sweet--sap!

Later that afternoon, I went back to photograph the tree trunk but it was mostly dry. Before I approached the tree, I saw the sapsucker on a nearby hickory tree, drilling holes and somewhat annoyed at my presence.

This photo shows one hole on the sugar maple tree, about 1/4" in diameter with some sap still there. The hole is no deeper than about 1/2."

The crease on the right side of the trunk was caused by a series of holes done by the sapsucker in previous years. Most of the hickory trees (except shagbark) have these creases on them.

In the past, I wondered why the trunk of the Sugar Maple tree was black. Had it burned once? That's unlikely since the other trees were not black but most of the sugar maples were. I was thinking how the whole trunk was wet from the holes so this moisture probably fosters the growth of black mildew, something like you get in a shower.

The last two photos were taken this morning and the trunk was dry again. Was it because it was a little cooler (50s) and the sap wasn't running? Or, does the sapsucker have to drill new holes to get sap every time? I bet Nina can tell me since she taps sugar maples every year.

When I got back to the house, I made a Valentine wreath for the birds (similar to my holiday wreath--the post has the recipe for the suet cake). I hung the wreath on a small oak tree. By the time I got back inside, a downy woodpecker had already started eating.

Here is the wreath just a few minutes later with a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker on it. He's been there for most of the afternoon, feasting on the peanut butter suet cake in the heart shaped cookie cutters and the little mesh bags full of peanut butter suet.

This White-Breasted Nuthatch has been sharing the wreath with the sapsucker.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone and please don't forget the birds.


  1. That's a really great idea! I love that wreath. Might have to make once for myself.

  2. ♥♥♥♥♥♥ Happy Valentines day ♥
    I enjoyed this post and your silly chipmunk digging dog.
    Lucky Birdies get nice decorations that taste good too. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

  3. Happy V-Day and glad the birdies like your wreath!

  4. MaineBirder--do make one. They are a lot of fun to watch the birds feasting.

    dAwN--yeah, my dog is silly, that's why she's Kookie! I think the digging comes the boxer part of her (she's half boxer/lab).

    mon@rch--the birds sure like it, must be the peanut butter.

  5. Wow! That is one impressive hole!

    I would love to put out a bird wreath, but I know the squirrels would polish it off in no time.

  6. Another fabulous wreath!! And the birds are Lovin it!