It looks like the first post in this series is going to be a real good one. Pretty much, any new species or genus or family or whatever that I learn to identify, is going to get put into this. I might play around with the format for a bit, but for now let’s start with this:
What is it? Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
What do the nerds call it? Sphyrapicus varius
Who is it related to? Family of Picidae or Woodpeckers
How can you tell it is what it is? From afar, it is pretty clear that it is a woodpecker, especially if you have experience with the other common woodpeckers in the east. It is roughly hairy woodpecker sized and profiled, but it lacks the plain two-tone feeling of a downy-hairy. From a distance, I noticed the white stripe down the side, and the red patch being at the front of the head, as well as a generally muddier overall look. Here in the east it is pretty unmistakable if you look at our limited woodpecker choices. They can be noisy, and once you hear their call a few times, it is pretty recognizable. It is reminiscent of a dog’s squeak toy.
Discussion: This was one of those birds that we had seen before but never bothered to actually learn to ID. They are a leftover bird for me, meaning that I know all the other woodpeckers in the area, so the sapsucker could be ID’d based on it not being one of the other woodpeckers. This is of course silly, but we did get good cooperative subjects to spend some time with during our latest trip up north.
With no bins or camera in hand, we were caught off guard as we explored a short trail leading from our rental cabin. This directly lead to an “ah shit is that a sapsucker?” and the listing of as many field marks as I could before it flew off. Luckily I had time to grab my camera, and get this photo showing the sapsucker and the really cool pattern of sap holes that we will be on the lookout for as sapsucker sign.
For a new species, honestly I prefer the wtf that comes along with a little inexperience. It’s good to leave a little wonder in the world.