The Demise of the Magical Sapsucker Tree and the Luck of Finding More Nesting Cavity Trees

/, Clark County, House Wrens, Idaho, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Targhee National Forest/The Demise of the Magical Sapsucker Tree and the Luck of Finding More Nesting Cavity Trees

Part of the "Magical Sapsucker Tree"Part of the “Magical Sapsucker Tree” – HTC One M8 cell phone image

After arriving at the Targhee National Forest in Idaho I hoped to photograph birds at the Magical Sapsucker Tree but instead found the tree destroyed with part of it standing and the other part at a campsite, that was the part that had active nests the last time I was in this area. It was a tree that brought me much delight as a bird photographer but more important than that…

It was a tree that provided safe haven for several species of cavity nesting birds.

It would not have taken much for a person to fell this tree because the heart of it was soft from a fungus and the cavities themselves also weakened it. The fungus is why some cavity nesting birds pick the trees with it because it makes removing the wood inside easier. I tried to hope that it has fallen on its own but the more I look at the cell phone images I took in the rain I am more than convinced that someone chopped the tree down.

There are visible woods chips near the trunk on the ground and a few places where I see sharp edges that would not appear if the tree fell on its own. They would have splintered not snapped off as a hard, sharp edge.

I want to look at the tree more carefully but that camping area is full for the weekend.

The downed part of the "Magical Sapsucker Tree"The downed part of the “Magical Sapsucker Tree” – HTC One M8 cell phone image

This is the part that was at a campsite nearby, some of you might remember the initials and the numbers 2004 I complained about having in my images because the nesting hole was so close to them.

This tree was chopped down on purpose and I am more than heart-broken about the loss of the tree and the lives of the birds that may have been in it when it fell, I am furious. I was angry and since I try to keep my blog PG rated I will just say this about it…


Since this was felled by the hand of man I would love to force the person or people who took it down to listen while each of us who care about birds and wildlife give them a piece of our minds about destroying a tree with active nests in it. Then turn them in because they violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Male Red-naped Sapsucker perched on an AspenMale Red-naped Sapsucker perched on an Aspen

So we went looking for other trees that have nesting cavities in them and I found at least two that are active. So far at one of those trees there is a Northern Flicker nesting cavity and at the other one I have seen a Red-naped Sapsucker…

House Wren at its nesting cavityHouse Wren at its nesting cavity

And a House Wren. Not much time was spent at either tree because of lighting conditions but I hope to spend more time at them both (from a respectful distance) to see what else might come to them.

A new nesting cavity treeA new nesting cavity tree – HTC One M8 cell phone image

I am heart-broken about losing the Magical Sapsucker Tree but I am glad to have found a few more where the chicks are thriving and are safe so far. Finding more nesting cavity trees helped a tiny bit to soften the blow of the other one being needlessly destroyed.

Life is good, sad and frustrating.



  1. Mia McPherson June 16, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks all for your comments. I have been in touch with the Forest Service about the Sapsucker Tree.

  2. Deborah Flowers June 15, 2015 at 7:44 am

    So very sad.
    Sadness for the tree, for the birds who (hopefully?? none??) nesting there; and sad for our wonderfully created planet being ruined by careless and lazy thrillseekers.
    Love all the pictures Mia. Birds are so awesome!

  3. Mia McPherson June 14, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    *** Update

    I went back to the tree and looked more carefully at it and it was definitely chopped down. Not one doubt about it.

    There were even eggs visible in one of the cavities.

    I am still on the road and will respond more soon.

  4. Jane Chesebrough June 14, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    The people should be charged for harrasing wildlife or,as you say, violation of the migratory bird act But you need to catch them in the act.Great photos of the birds.

  5. Elephant's Child June 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Oh Mia.
    I am so sorry. And so often ashamed of our species.

  6. April Olson June 14, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I live on Salt Lake’s east bench and I’ve gone the rounds several times with the city. We have old trees that line our streets full of cavities for woodpeckers and western screech owls. They cut them down in spring and summer. They claim they are a danger of breaking or falling and doing damage or hurting people. .I can agree with their reasoning but they need to remove or trim the trees in the late fall early winter. I get so tired of watching a nest to return the next day and find the whole tree gone! So I feel your sadness and frustration of looking forward to the magical parts of nature in spring only to find that someone just does not understand or care.

  7. Patty Chadwick June 14, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Wonderful image of the wren…love position, detail, closed mouth! Glad you found another cavity nesting tree. Guess anything near a camp ground is in jeopardy…some “campers” don’t have a clue…very little of my camping, (always “minimal impact”), was in “designated” camping grounds–even when traveling, rangers would often tell me about some off the trail spot. I prided myself in leaving my area either better than before (trash removal, if there had been any) or the same as I found it…didn’t want to leave ANY sign anyone had been there. Most of my “camping” at formal camp grounds were unpleasant…loud voices, screaming kids,TV(!!!), radios,motors running, other intrusive, thoughtless sounds.

  8. Patty Chadwick June 14, 2015 at 8:12 am

    My bet is some STUPID bastard! Possibly even a kid with a hatchet and morons as parents. .It seems they’re multiplying in spite of my hopes that they’ll become extinct…the sooner the better (And my fervent wishes I could help that happen)…i hope we’re both wrong…and there were no babies in it when it fell. Sometimes I teally hate humans!!!

  9. Eileen June 14, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Awesome shot of the Sapsucker, love it!

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