Sapsuckers, Bluebirds and Nuthatches and the Magical Sapsucker Tree

/, Clark County, Idaho, Mountain Bluebirds, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Targhee National Forest, Williamson's Sapsuckers/Sapsuckers, Bluebirds and Nuthatches and the Magical Sapsucker Tree

Sapsucker wells in an AspenSapsucker wells in an Aspen

Two years ago today I was in the Targhee National Forest of Clark County, Idaho photographing birds at what I called the “Magical Sapsucker Tree”. Because the Williamson’s Sapsuckers had made that tree home for what appeared to be many years other species were also able to call it home by nesting on older cavities the sapsuckers had excavated.

This photo shows some of the sapsucker wells that were drilled into a nearby aspen.

Male Williamson's Sapsucker on a tree with three nesting cavities showingMale Williamson’s Sapsucker on a tree with three nesting cavities showing

The male Williamson’s Sapsucker was beautiful, industrious and moved like lighting. I also saw male and female Red-naped Sapsuckers on the tree.

Red-breasted Nuthatch at a nesting cavity openingRed-breasted Nuthatch at a nesting cavity opening

There were other birds like this Red-breasted Nuthatch that were attracted to the nesting cavity tree along with House Wrens, Mountain Chickadees, Northern Flickers, Tree Swallows and Pine Siskins too. I think the siskins were just attracted by all the noise the other birds made.

Male Mountain Bluebird clinging to the nesting treeMale Mountain Bluebird clinging to the nesting tree

A pair of Mountain Bluebirds had made one of the cavities their nest and spent time defending it and bringing in nesting materials.

Female Mountain Bluebird clinging to the nesting treeFemale Mountain Bluebird clinging to the nesting tree

The last time I saw the tree standing the bluebirds were on eggs and I was so excited that I might be able to see them feeding their young there along with possible young Williamson’s Sapsuckers in another cavity.

But it was not to be. Someone chopped down the nesting cavity tree that might have had baby birds in it and when I saw what had been done I felt as if my gut had been punched by a prize fighting boxer.

I keep hoping I will find another magical sapsucker tree as busy and as magical as this tree was. I miss it. All of these images were taken two years ago today.

Life is good.



  1. Patty Chadwick May 3, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I remember this tree all too well…and the tragic,moronic, completely irresponsible act that destroyed it…with it’s many prime nesting cavities and possibly baby birds inside. It still hurts like hell to think about it ….

    • Elephants Child May 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Yes. From half a world away I remember this. And still ache.

  2. April Olson May 3, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Yes, I know the feeling. I have sadly watched Salt Lake City cut down many of the old growth trees in my neighborhood that have housed woodpeckers, Western Screech Owls and sapsuckers. I understand dying large trees can be dangerous when in the parking strip, but at least cut them down in October through December.

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