The singing tree
July 28, 2011 —
It was a warm morning in early July when I took a walk to one of the beaches in Walker Lake in Shohola, PA. As I passed a small maple tree on the top of the footpath, I heard what sounded like a small bird calling continuously, except I couldn’t see the bird. A second look at the tree revealed a cavity about 15 feet high, and it was then I realized that I was listening to a begging call of a woodpecker from inside the tree.
A few minutes later, an adult male yellow-bellied sapsucker made an appearance at the entrance to the cavity with a small insect in its mouth. For two seconds perhaps, the begging calls stopped, only to resume without pause. About five minutes later, the female adult appeared with food, and after the female left, I saw a feathered head just inside the cavity.
I returned with a camera and spent an hour or so for the next couple of days watching the cavity, and I found that the male adult did most of the food delivery, returning each time with assorted insects and some unidentifiable berries. The young were showing themselves at the cavity entrance, displaying faint crown, throat and eye marks of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. They looked like they were ready to fledge. Indeed, after the third morning, the “singing tree” was silent, and no birds were seen at the nest.